AR   2018-11-15
Publications Sitemap Contact
BLOG 2018

Michel Barnier reads his
homework assignment

Prince Charles and Camilla
set off to celebrate his
70th birthday party at
Buckingham Palace
last night

Brexit Latest

UK cabinet agrees
Theresa May's draft
Brexit deal

EU man, UK

Merkel, Macron
Merkel, Macron


2018 November 15

Battle of Brexit

The Guardian, UCT 0903

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab resigns, saying he cannot back May's deal.

May deal under scrutiny
Financial Times

UK prime minister Theresa May said there was collective cabinet approval for her deal. Downing Street is now braced for resignations as the mood darkens over the Conservative party. Brexiteer MPs claim they had the 48 names needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in her premiership.

In a letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk, European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker says decisive progress has been achieved in the Brexit talks. UK cabinet approval paves the way for formal approval of the Brexit treaty at a special European Council meeting on November 25.

The 585-page withdrawal treaty will now come under heavy political scrutiny.

Parliament should reject May's rotten Brexit deal
Philip Stephens

The deal negotiated by Theresa May's government is an expression of the balance of power between the UK and the EU. The withdrawal accord is a bad deal, a rotten deal that parliament should have no hesitation in rejecting. It would leave Britain markedly poorer, weaker in the pursuit of its national interests, and less secure.

The prime minister could never get an agreement as good as the one Britain enjoys as a full member of the bloc. The political statement accompanying the agreement is full of good intentions about forging a new partnership and allowing Britain to sit on the sidelines of discussions about foreign policy, defence, and antiterrorism. In truth, Britain will be granted influence only to the extent that it is ready to sign up again to the rules of the EU club.

The best option would see parliament back a referendum offering an informed choice between the status quo and what everyone can now see is available outside the EU. No one voted for the chaotic halfway house now proposed.

Final Say

Lizzy Buchan

The Independent's petition for fresh Brexit referendum is the most popular petition in the UK. More than a million people backed the call for a public vote on May's Brexit deal in just three months. says Brexit is dominating public opinion. Its new poll finds 85% of voters say they had been ignored over the Brexit strategy, and just 7.4% say they have been adequately consulted. surveyed more than 89,000 users in the UK between October 31 and November 5: 63% backed Remain, 25% voted Leave, and the remainder did not vote or chose not to say.

2018 November 14

Climate Forecast

Bill McKibben

The 2018 report by the IPCC set a target of 1.5 K for global warming. The pledges made by nations at the Paris conference in 2015 were not enough to meet the 2 K target. If every nation fulfilled those pledges, the global temperature would still rise by an intolerable 3.5 K.

Engineers have continued to make remarkable advances. The price per kW for solar or wind power has continued to plunge, so much so that these are now the cheapest sources of power across much of the globe. Renewable technology has been deployed widely in China and India.

The prospects for civilization have worsened since 2015. America has withdrawn from the Paris agreement and aims to revive the coal industry and deregulate the oil and gas business. A continued rise in global CO2 emissions suggests 2018 will set a new record for warming.

To keep warming under 1.5 K, those emissions will have to fall by almost half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. The burden of climate change will be heaviest on the poorest nations. At 2 K, the report predicts a "disproportionately rapid evacuation" of people from the tropics.

The IPCC is a slave to consensus and almost certainly understates the problem. Scientists have agreed on a broad and workable summary of our peril. But even the politicians not controlled by the fossil fuel industry tend to propose changes too small and slow to make much difference.

AR The science is clear — action now.

American Dominance Eroded

Washington Post

The National Defense Strategy Commission, comprised of former top Republican and Democratic officials selected by Congress, evaluated the Trump administration's 2018 National Defense Strategy and found:
 The United States has lost its military edge and could lose a war against China or Russia
 China and Russia are seeking regional dominance and an ability to project global military power
 The military balance has shifted adversely for the United States in Europe, Asia, and the Mideast
 The Pentagon should explain more fully how it plans to defeat its rivals in competition and war
 Despite a $716 billion US defense budget this year, the US defense effort is under-resourced
 Congress should look at the entire federal budget to put the nation on a stabler financial footing
 The US Navy should expand its submarine fleet and sealift forces
 The US Air Force should deploy more reconnaissance platforms and stealth fighters and bombers
 The US Army should pursue more armor, long-range precision missiles, air defense, and logistics
 Create new pilot programs aimed at breakthroughs to help retain American military dominance

AR America cannot win WW3. Negotiate global peace.

2018 November 13

Electronic Publishing

Guest speech by Andy Ross
Poole Rotary Club

EU Army

Der Spiegel

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel hat sich für die Idee einer europäischen Armee ausgesprochen. "Wir sollten an der Vision arbeiten, eines Tages auch eine echte europäische Armee zu schaffen", sagte sie in einer Rede im Europaparlament in Straßburg.

Die Zeiten, in denen Europa sich auf andere verlassen konnte, seien "schlicht vorbei", bekräftigte Merkel. "Alte Verbündete stellen bewährte Verbindungen in Frage. Eine gemeinsame europäische Armee würde der Welt zeigen, dass es zwischen den europäischen Ländern nie wieder Krieg gibt."

Merkel unterstützte damit einen Vorschlag von Frankreichs Staatschef Emmanuel Macron, der vergangene Woche erneut eine "echte europäische Armee" für mehr Unabhängigkeit von den USA ins Spiel gebracht hatte.

Rede-Ausschnitt (00:43)

AR Good idea.

Island Nation

The Times

Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated a remarkable ability to reach for the right words to match the solemnity of any diplomatic occasion. "Old demons are resurfacing," he warned.

The British government could have used this weekend's commemorations to send its own powerful signal of its continued commitment to the global rules-based system and its determination to play a leading role in defending it and Europe. Instead, Theresa May was conspicuous on Sunday only by her absence from the gathering of global leaders in Paris.

Britain cannot retreat into isolationism.

Brexit Draft Deal

BBC News

UK and EU officials have agreed the draft text of a Brexit agreement. A special cabinet meeting will be held 14:00 UCT Wednesday to seek ministerial backing. Leading Brexiteers urge rejection.

The way out of this shambles is a People's Vote
Jo Johnson

I voted Remain in the 2016 referendum. I did my best as a government minister to make a success of our departure from the EU. I now appeal to every Conservative to ask themselves if the choice being offered to us between vassalage and chaos can truly represent the national interest.

No one voted for a Brexit that would leave the UK with less control over its laws than it has within the EU. No one voted for a Brexit that will reduce market access for our services sector. No one voted for a Brexit where the big questions remain unresolved and negotiations go on for years.

An alternative to the shambles is unfolding in Westminster. Handing the final decision back to the people is the most democratic thing to do and the most practical way to solve this crisis. Support a People's Vote.

AR Jo Jo for PM.

2018 November 12


Emmanuel Macron

Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying "Our interests first — who cares about the others?", we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great, and what makes it essential — its moral values.

Brexit Shambles

The Guardian

ThyssenKrupp UK chairman and CEO Terry Sargeant is a member of German Industry UK, representing 100 German companies in the UK:

"The impact of Brexit for multinationals is disruptive, and could lead to loss of business in Britain. In Germany, people look at this and are aghast at what is happening .. It is a complete shambles .. Once the UK leaves the customs union there will be barriers and possibly duties and tariffs to be paid. At the very least there will be paperwork .. I am passionate that we do what we can to stop the damage."

AR I am too — we have to live with this mess for a long time.


The New York Times

Yuval Noah Harari worries that Silicon Valley is undermining democracy, that the big tech companies are destroying free will, that the technological revolution is creating a tiny ruling class and a huge useless class.

Harari recently visited Silicon Valley. The more of a mess Washington becomes, the more interested the tech world is in creating something else. Mark Zuckerberg admires Caesar Augustus: "Basically, through a really harsh approach, he established 200 years of world peace."

Harari: "I've met a number of these high-tech giants, and generally they're good people. They're not Attila the Hun. In the lottery of human leaders, you could get far worse."

Dr Harari, 42, is a history professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He grew up near Haifa. His father worked in the arms industry. His mother worked in office administration. His husband Itzik Yahav is also his manager.

Harari says free will is an illusion and human rights are just a story we tell ourselves. Political parties and the liberal world order rely on fictions like "the customer is always right" and "follow your heart" that no longer work in the age of artificial intelligence: "If humans are hackable animals, and if our choices and opinions don't reflect our free will, what should the point of politics be?"

At first, English-language publishers were cool on the commercial viability of his big book Sapiens. Yahav persisted, eventually landing the agent Deborah Harris. One day when Harari was away meditating, Yahav and Harris sold it to Random House in London.

Today, Ridley Scott and documentarian Asif Kapadia are adapting Sapiens into a TV show.

In December, Harari will enter an ashram outside Mumbai for 60 days of silence.

AR See my essay The Prophet of Posthumanism.

WW1 graves

Boštjan Burger

Die blutige Bilanz des
Ersten Weltkriegs

They Shall Not Grow Old

Real WW1 shock-doc:
a groundbreaking

AR Gripping, obscene,
like being there
in the mud

White poppy
White Poppies
Peace Pledge Union

People wish to remember
victims of war by working
for peace. They resist
nationalistic agendas that
confine remembrance to
the British armed forces.

White poppies represent
remembrance for all victims
of war of all nationalities,
a commitment to peace
and a rejection of

Prince Charles, 70 next week:
"There's only room for one
sovereign at a time."



Oumuamua was discovered
by a star survey in 2017.
Its exact trajectory has an
excess radial acceleration,
as if from solar radiation
pressure on a thin sheet.
It might be an artificial
light sail designed for
interstellar travel.

AR A piece of interstellar
plastic waste, perhaps?


2018 Remembrance Sunday

A Hundred Years

Financial Times

The battles of 1914−18 were only the first phase of a European civil war that peaked in 1939−45. The long war was a struggle for mastery between Germany and Russia. German aggression sucked France and Britain into two wars. In 1914, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg said his aim was to lay the foundations for German predominance in Europe.

Germany after 1945 evolved into a model democracy embedded in the EU. But now Russian aggression, African migration, British separatism, and east European assaults on the rule of law are testing the EU. The Armistice anniversary is a time to reflect that we need German leadership, US engagement, and efforts to ease tensions.

AR British imperialists sought to tame German hegemonism but only succeeded in making way for Soviet expansionism. American militarists faced down Soviet communism and left Europe open to Russian opportunism. Now British separatists threaten to weaken the EU just when Europeans need to reinforce their idealism.

Brexit Doom

The Sunday Times

Theresa May's mission to deliver Brexit looks as doomed as the Apollo 13 mission. Negotiations are continuing in Brussels through the weekend in hopes of salvation by the end of the month.

The outlines of a deal reveal a new Irish border backstop with three options:
 An EU-UK economic partnership with no hard border in Ireland
 An extension of the transition phase beyond December 2020
 A temporary customs arrangement between the UK and the EU

Several member states insist on conditions:
 The UK accepts EU rules on state aid, environmental and labour standards
 Their states have access to UK fishing waters after the transition

EU negotiators have rejected an independent arbitration mechanism to limit the backstop. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab is said to be on the brink of resigning. Other ministers are ready to resign.

A leading Brexiteer: "I think May's denouement might be beginning. If she thinks she is going to land this deal successfully and get it through the EU, her cabinet and parliament, then she is living on a different planet."

AR An EU siege of the UK recalls the old U-boat blockades.

2018 November 10

Brexit Anger

Jeremy Corbyn

Give people hope. People need the perspective that they will be able to achieve something in their lives. There has to be a realignment of wealth within our society.

We offer an inclusive radical alternative to what this government is doing. We can recognize the reasons why people voted Leave. A lot of people have been angered by how their communities have been left behind.

We want to make a new and comprehensive customs union with the EU, one that protects the Irish border and ensures that our supply chains work in both directions.

Brexit Chaos

Keir Starmer

This government is incapable of negotiating the right Brexit deal for this country. At every stage of the Brexit process, the prime minister has shunned constructive engagement over her Brexit strategy. She has been negotiating the deal she thinks she can get past her divided cabinet and party.

Supporting a bad deal is not in the national interest and there is no mandate for a no deal Brexit. No government has the right to plunge the country into chaos because of its own failure. The national interest must come first.

AR Enter Jo ..

Jo Jo

Financial Times

Jo Johnson laments that Brexit has divided families. His brother Boris was the leading figure in the Leave campaign. Jo was a passionate Remainer. Their sister Rachel is for holding a people's vote.

A former Downing Street aide: "Jo and Boris have polar opposite views and yet they have reached the same conclusion about where we are heading. It shows the spectrum of disquiet."

Both brothers are old boys of Eton and Oxford, were in the Bullingdon Club, and worked as journalists. Jo also studied in Paris and in Brussels before working at Deutsche Bank and then at the Financial Times before moving into politics. He is married to Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman.

Jo became a minister in the Cabinet Office in 2014. From 2015 he was universities minister, then from January 2018 a transport minister. He despairs at Theresa May's handling of Brexit.

Boris: "Boundless admiration as ever for my brother Jo."

Rachel: "Jo is brave and on the right side of history."

What Would Winston Do?

2018 November 9

I Quit

Jo Johnson

Brexit has divided the country. The choice being presented to the British people is between an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business, and a "no deal" Brexit that I know as a transport minister will inflict untold damage on our nation.

My brother Boris is as unhappy with the government's proposals as I am. Indeed he recently observed that the proposed arrangements were substantially worse than staying in the EU. On that he is unquestionably right.

The democratic thing to do is to give the public the final say. This would ask people whether they want to go ahead with Brexit now that we know the deal that is actually available to us, whether we should leave without any deal at all, or whether people on balance would rather stick with the deal we already have inside the EU.

Britain stands on the brink of the greatest crisis since the Second World War. My duty to my constituents and our great nation has forced me to act. I have today written to the prime minister asking her to accept my resignation from the government.

On this most crucial of questions, I believe it is entirely right to go back to the people and ask them to confirm their decision to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, to give them the final say on whether we leave with the prime minister's deal or without it.

To do anything less will do grave damage to our democracy.

AR Bravo, Jo!

No Deal Plan

The Times

UK prime minister Theresa May is accused of breaking her promise to the DUP that she would never allow Northern Ireland to be divided from the rest of the UK.

May wrote to DUP leader Arlene Foster to say the EU is still pushing for its "backstop to the backstop" plan that would leave Northern Ireland tied to the single market and customs union if Brexit talks collapse. May says she would never allow a divide between Ulster and Great Britain to come into force. The DUP interprets this wording to mean the "backstop to the backstop" clause will be inserted into the legally binding agreement.

Foster: "The prime minister's letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK."

AR Foster now says she cannot support the present deal.

Anglo-Saxistentalist Crisis

Damon Albarn

Brexit is wrong. We live on this stroppy little island, and we need to talk to each other.
But have we not just spent the last couple of years going round in circles?
The referendum question wasn't right in the first place. It should have been:
"Who are we, and who do we want to become?"
There are no easy answers.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen: Merrie Land (4:48)

2018 November 8

Sessions Out, Mueller Next?

Fred Wertheimer, Norman Eisen

Special counsel (SC) Robert Mueller faces his most serious threat yet in the forced resignation of attorney general (AG) Jeff Sessions. The AG had recused himself from the Russia investigation and let his deputy oversee it.

President Trump has named Matthew Whitaker as acting AG and shifted the oversight role to him. But Whitaker has evidently prejudged aspects of the investigation and mused about how it can be hampered. No prosecutor should work on a matter under these circumstances.

To protect the investigation before President Trump makes any further efforts to control the SC office, we propose a solution based upon that devised by Robert Bork when he was the acting AG during Watergate:
 The AG will not remove the SC except for extraordinary improprieties, will not countermand or interfere with SC decisions or actions, and will not limit the jurisdiction of the SC without first consulting with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate.
 The SC investigation shall continue until the SC determines that it has been completed. The SC may make public such statements or reports as he deems appropriate and shall submit a final report and may make it public.

Members of both chambers should demand a commitment from any new person overseeing the Mueller investigation to protect it.

France−UK Military Alliance

The Guardian

A report from a task force led by Bernard Cazeneuve, French prime minister from 2016 to 2017, and George Robertson, UK defence secretary from 1997 to 1999 and NATO secretary general from 1999 to 2004, makes an urgent call for France and the UK to work more closely together on defence.

Lord Robertson: "[Trump] has been lukewarm on NATO and has taken a pretty hostile view about the role of some European countries and their seriousness about defence. [NATO] is under pressure due to Brexit and it is has never been more valuable given what America is doing at the moment. It needs to be strengthened, improved and reinforced."

The report calls on the EU to keep the security relationship with the UK alive and urges the UK to soften its red lines on ECJ jurisdiction to allow its security forces access to key databases.

Robertson: "Britain and France are close neighbours [and] account for more than half of European defence spending and probably over 60% of defence capability. We are both in the UN security council, we are both nuclear powers and we have both got the expeditionary capabilities. Any EU operation will need UK forces. [This] is the dilemma we are highlighting."

2018 November 7

Democrats Win House

The New York Times

With the House of Representatives in Democrat control, Congress can do more for Americans than cutting taxes for the wealthy and menacing health care. Democrats adopted a trio of policy goals: lowering health care costs, creating jobs by investing in infrastructure, and cleaning up politics. These are popular causes.

Democrats have the chance to press President Trump about whether he is interested in making progress on his stated goals or is a hypocrite intent on waging partisan trench warfare. Huge majorities of Americans support letting the Dreamers stay. Finding a compromise path with Trump would be good policy and good politics.

Democrats will be contending with a Republican Senate leader who takes pride in obstructionism. If they can find issues that will put Republican lawmakers on the opposite side from the president, all the better. Wait and see what Robert Mueller turns up.

Die Flucht der Briten

Jochen Buchsteiner

Die Briten, heißt es auf dem Kontinent, befinden sich auf einem Irrweg.

Brexit fußt auf nachvollziehbaren und redlichen Motiven: Die Briten blicken leidenschaftlicher auf die Freiheit und kühler auf Europa. Der Brexit folgt berechtigter Kritik am Zustand der EU und wehrt sich gegen Fehlentwicklungen des liberalen Modells. Indem die Briten ihre Souveränität und Identität über den Wohlstand stellen, kehren sie die Prioritäten einer europäischen Einigungslogik um, die in der Krise steckt.

Niemand kann wissen, wohin der Aufbruch der Briten führt.

AR Die Betonung auf britischer Nationalität ist problematisch. Regionaler Solidarität und Gleichschaltung sind wichtiger

2018 November 6

Brexit Plot

Chuka Umunna

The European Research Group (ERG) is a Brexiteer group chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg. Members on Theresa May: "We'll keep her in place for now. She's our puppet. We're pulling the strings."

The UK government will waste time on Brexit for decades to come. It will have no time for big challenges like the unfair economy, the dysfunctional housing market, and climate change.

AR Brexit is a bust for the notion that Brits are better off ruled by a bunch of unrestrained MPs in Westminster than by those same MPs restrained by the best and brightest of all Europe.

Brexit Poll

Daily Mail

A new Brexit poll finds 54% for Remain, 46% for Leave.

The survey of 20,000 UK voters, the largest since the 2016 referendum, finds the number of local authority areas backing Brexit has fallen from 262 in the referendum to 157 today. The number backing Remain has risen from 116 to 221. Big falls in support for Brexit were recorded in a string of seats in Labour heartlands.

Asked whether they would back yet another vote,
 43% said they'd support a referendum on a final Brexit deal versus remaining in the EU
 37% said they'd oppose it

Asked how they would vote on the prospect of a no-deal Brexit,
 35% said they'd vote to remain in the EU
 19% said they'd vote to delay leaving to allow more time for talks
 36% said they'd vote to leave the EU

Asked how they would vote if the government secured its proposed deal,
 33% said they'd reject it
 26% said they'd accept it
 34% didn't know
 7% didn't reply

AR Brexit can now be branded as a con trick to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Brexit Pain

Rafael Behr

Theresa May looks increasingly likely to complete a deal that pleases no one and is approved by parliament anyway.

Calling off Brexit requires another referendum. Some say the social impact of a referendum is costlier than the economic hit of an orderly Brexit. Another referendum can look as if stupid racists got the question wrong and must resit the exam until they get it right.

A backlash is not averted by going through with Brexit. Hardline Brexiteers will not lay down arms once the UK is out of the EU. If reasonable men surrender the trench of EU membership, where do they retreat to fight again?

AR No surrender — kill Brexit.


Rosenmontag 2018: Theresa May gebiert einen Brexit

"Barbed wire .. can be
a beautiful sight"
Donald Trump

AR Lock
him up.

At work, Friday

Photopress Belfast
Scene a few days ago
outside a UK mosque

J Lo
Jennifer Lopez


2018 November 5

Germany After Merkel

Wolfgang Münchau

The debate about who should succeed Angela Merkel as CDU chairman is shaping up. The CDU is due to select her successor in December. There are three serious candidates:
 Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, CDU general secretary, is close to Merkel. She supported Merkel's
     immigration policies and ran her election campaign last year.
 Jens Spahn, health minister and critic of Merkel, is the antidote to Merkel's liberalism. As finance
     secretary he was a hardline opponent of EZ reforms.
 Friedrich Merz is a blast from the past. A former parliamentary leader of the CDU-CSU from 2000
     to 2002, he was ejected after a power struggle with Merkel.
Merz is socially conservative and economically libertarian. He supports EZ reform and an EU army. He also advocates a constructive relationship with the UK after Brexit.

AR Merz seems OK to me.

Brexit Tunnel

The Guardian

EU officials say the chances of a deal on the Irish border are 50-50 as talks enter a dark phase known as the "tunnel" this week. The UK government aims to make "decisive progress" by Friday in hopes of an extraordinary Brexit summit in late November.

2018 November 4

Revealed: Secret Brexit Deal

Tim Shipman

Theresa May's secret plan to secure a Brexit deal and win the backing of parliament:
 The EU will write the customs deal into the withdrawal agreement to avoid a backstop
 An exit clause will reassure Brexiteers the UK will not be in the EU for ever
 A future economic partnership (FEP) will aim to balance market access and border checks

May will:
 Tell Brexiteer ministers to support it or be personally responsible for a No Deal Brexit
 Tell Remainers she fought for the closest possible alignment until the last minute
 Quietly ditch her Chequers blueprint and "pivot" toward a different "landing zone"

No 10 spokesman: "This is all speculation."

AR Shipman is a canny source on UK politics.


Tony Blair

We are approaching Brexit crunch time. The government offers a choice between taking the deal but losing control or breaking free and taking the pain. MPs should vote down the deal and give the people the final say.

AR The best FEP is to remain in the EU.

2018 November 3

Angela Merkel: Savior or Destroyer?

Jon Henley

Angela Merkel's approach to a problem is to sit it out. Rather than follow a historic mission or strategic vision, she aims to solve problems in a way that ensures she stays in power.

The German chancellor did so for 13 years. She has been measured, cautious, methodical, pragmatic, noncommittal, and in control. But this week she conceded defeat.

A battle is under way over her legacy. For her defenders, the chancellor is a fundamentally decent politician who fought for democratic values. Her critics say that on major policy questions she is indecisive and panders to public opinion.

Constanze Stelzenmüller: "Politicians have to be effective and credible, and Merkel has been both. She built relationships of trust .. She gains people's trust because she has clear values .. It's exactly what you want running a major power in the centre of Europe."

Germans have sound historical reasons for disliking excessive political passion. Policies were never the point of Merkel. Many Germans see her as a reliable and analytical civil servant, not as a politician who has staked out a vision for the country.

Merkel is Machiavellian. Her hard line on enforcing austerity was popular among conservatives but boosted populist movements in southern Europe, while her 2015 open borders policy was popular among liberals but boosted the AfD. She did little for European integration or the euro.

Alice Weidel: Destroyer or Savior?

The Times

The leader of Germany's far-right AfD party has pulled out of a talk at the Oxford Union next week. The decision to invite Alice Weidel, 39, prompted almost 30 societies from the University of Oxford to sign a letter calling for the invitation to be revoked.

AfD is the largest opposition party in the German parliament and holds regular rallies where immigrants and Muslims are targeted for criticism. The Oxford Union described Dr Weidel as "outspoken" on issues such as the refugee crisis and traditional social values.

The Oxford Labour Muslim Network said offering a platform for "hate speech" must "not be conflated with freedom of speech" and suggested the Oxford Union was on the wrong side of history.

Oxford Union president Stephen Horvath: "Alice Weidel has cancelled her trip to the UK due to concerns with the security arrangements for aspects of her travels and engagements."

AR Let the Oxford snowflakes hear what she has to say.

2018 November 2

Did Russia Bankroll Brexit?

The Guardian

The UK National Crime Agency is to investigate allegations of multiple criminal offences by Arron Banks and his unofficial leave campaign in the Brexit referendum. Banks is an insurance millionaire who chaired the Leave.EU campaign and was formerly a major bankroller of UKIP.

The NCA will look into suspicions that Banks was not the true source of £8 million in funding to the Leave.EU campaign and that criminal offences may have been committed. Some MPs are calling for the Brexit process to be put on hold while the allegations are investigated.

Banks: "I am confident that a full and frank investigation will finally put an end to the ludicrous allegations levelled against me and my colleagues. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing from the companies I own. I am a UK taxpayer and I have never received any foreign donations."

AR Guardian sources report Banks profited from absurdly lucrative dealings with Russia.

Trust the Guardian

The Guardian

The most trusted UK newspaper brand is the Guardian, finds a Pew study. It is particularly trusted among readers aged 18 to 29. The study included four British newspapers and covered more than 16,000 adults across eight western European countries.

Artificial Neural Network Architecture

University of Manchester

Our Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) machine is inspired by the working of the human brain. A SpiNNaker machine is a massively parallel computing platform containing a million processors and running at 200 Tflops, targeted towards three main areas of research:

Neuroscience: SpiNNaker is a platform that will help neuroscientists to understand how the brain works. It will be capable of simulating a billion simple neurons, or millions of neurons with complex structure and internal dynamics.

Robotics: SpiNNaker is a good target for researchers in robotics. A small SpiNNaker board can simulate a network of tens of thousands of spiking neurons, process sensory input and generate motor output, all in real time and in a low power system.

Computer Science: SpiNNaker breaks the rules followed by traditional supercomputers. SpiNNaker nodes communicate using spikes that are inherently unreliable. This offers the potential to discover new principles of massively parallel computation.

Steve Furber: "Neuroscientists can now use SpiNNaker to help unlock some of the secrets of how the human brain works by running unprecedentedly large-scale simulations. It also works as real-time neural simulator that allows roboticists to design large-scale neural networks into mobile robots."

2018 All Saints Day

Math: Evidence vs Proof

Kevin Hartnett

A new computational model suggests the rank of one type of algebraic equation is bounded. Equations with higher ranks have larger and more complicated sets of rational solutions.

Given an equation, you can graph its solutions as a curve. The number of rational solutions you need to find all the rest is the rank of the curve. A curve for which you need to know two points to find the rest has rank 2.

A circle has a quadratic equation of degree 2. Elliptic curves have degree 3 and come in various ranks, with no proven upper limit. The current record is held by an elliptic curve with rank 28, discovered in 2006 by Noam Elkies.

The new model builds on previous models and makes various predictions that almost exactly match proven results. It says there are only finitely many elliptic curves with rank greater than 21, so rank is bounded.

Our Local Black Hole

Joshua Sokol

Glowing gas swirls into the Milky Way's central black hole, marking it with a point of IR light we call Sagittarius A*. Occasionally, that point flares up briefly and subsides. A team has measured its brightness and position and found it traces out a tiny circle.

Hot spots made of plasma seem to be orbiting the black hole at about 100 Mm/s. Their orbit is just outside the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO) near the event horizon. The mass and spin of the back hole define the ISCO and the hot spot orbit.

Four ESO telescopes work together in a project called GRAVITY. On July 22, when Sagittarius A* flared, GRAVITY combined the IR light to produce sharp position and polarization measurements. The data lets us measure the black hole's spin.

In parallel to this, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is imaging the warped spacetime inside the ISCO. Soon we could build up a movie of the orbiting hot spot.


Halloween sunrise, Canford Cliffs (beach figure on right for scale)


2018 October 31


Robert Zaretsky

"Do you suppose you can go in for philosophy and eat and drink just as you do now or get angry and irritated in the same way? You are going to have to go without sleep, work really hard, stay away from friends and family, be disrespected .. get mocked .. and come off worse .. everywhere."
— Epictetus

For Epictetus, Stoicism was a set of rigorous practices that focused on the role of reason in our lives. The compass of our rational faculties allows us to navigate a world in which we are carried aloft by vast forces. We cannot master these circumstances, but we can master our attitude toward them.

As a former slave, Epictetus said physical enslavement is a thing indifferent, neither good nor bad. Nearly everything that is external to us is not up to us, but instead to nature. By dint of our reason, we can grasp and assent to the way of the world.

It requires a lifetime of effort to scale these philosophical heights. But once I scramble to the summit, I will see that mere material and physical things cannot breach what Marcus Aurelius calls the inner fortress of my self. Within that fortress, I can cultivate serenity.

Stoicism holds much attraction. But its renunciation reaches much further than most of us would ever wish to go. Without our attachments to those we love, we become less human.

Tod Seelie
Tod Seelie
Tod Seelie
Tod Seelie

Wasteland Weekend

Landtagswahl Hessen
Provisional results

Party Vote % Seats
CDU 27.0 40
SPD 19.8 29
Grüne 19.8 29
AfD 13.1 19
FDP 7.5 11
Linke 6.3 9
Other 6.5 0

Sinead O'Connor
Shuhada Davitt
"I'm proud to have
become a Muslim"
Sinead O'Connor

Germany works

Bollox to Brexit

Andy Ross
Me yesterday


2018 October 30

Merkel: In Memoriam

Rafael Behr

Angela Merkel was the anti-Trump figurehead for European civilization. In Britain, her news was submerged in coverage of a meaningless budget. While the Brexit pantomime plays out, Britain is disabled on the global stage.

Merkel was and is an ambassador from a more stable era. When she goes, a big vacancy opens up. Britain is in no condition to supply a candidate to fill it.

2018 October 29


Financial Times

Angela Merkel has decided to stand down as leader of the CDU. She will not seek re-election as chancellor in 2021 and is preparing her succession. She has served Germany and Europe well at a time of French weakness, British divergence, and Italian decline. The stability of Europe depends on Germany.

AR End of an era.

2018 October 28

Big Change in Hesse

Der Spiegel

Big losses for the CDU and SPD in the state election in Hesse: The ZDF results at 1838 UCT show the CDU and minister-president Volker Bouffier in control, but with the worst result for the party in over 50 years. The SPD faces its worst result ever in the state. The big winners are the Greens and the AfD. The result will be a challenge for the ruling CDU-SPD GroKo in Berlin.

Britain vs London

Paul Collier

Brexit is a mutiny — it is not about the arcane details of relationships with the EU. Across Europe, leaders are facing equivalent mutinies. The underlying issues will be fixed not in some all-night meeting room in Brussels but by mapping out a new future.

AR Collier advocates policies to steer investments away from London toward the provinces. He also wants to see investors focus on creating sustainable communities for wealth creation, to give workers a sense of purpose beyond that of maximizing shareholder dividends. Generally, in my gloss, we need a moral climate where value is rooted in human life, leaving money as a (flawed) measure of value and not as a (definitive) criterion of value.

2018 October 27

Hypercompex Numbers

Patrick Honner

Complex numbers are made up of a real part and an imaginary part. They have the form a + bi, where a and b are both real numbers, and the "imaginary" unit i is the square root of −1. We can add, subtract, multiply, and divide complex numbers much as we do real numbers.
Multiplication of complex numbers is commutative. We can also divide complex numbers, by using the fact that division is multiplication by the reciprocal. To divide a number by i, we can just multiply it by −i. To compute the reciprocal of any complex number, we use the fact that the product of the complex number and its conjugate is a real number.

Quaternions are structured like complex numbers, but with additional square roots of −1 we call j and k. Every quaternion has the form a + bi + cj + dk, where a, b, c, d are real numbers, and
i2 = j2 = k2 = i × j × k = −1
This relationship between i, j, k allows us to multiply and divide quaternions. We see that
i × j = k      j × k = i      k × i = j
j × i = −k    k × j = −i    i × k = −j
We lose the commutativity of multiplication, but we can still add, subtract, multiply and divide.
To divide quaternions, we still use conjugation to find the reciprocal, because
(a + bi + cj + dk) × (a − bi − cj − dk) = a2 + b2 + c2 + d2
The quaternions can be used to model the rotation of 3D space.

Octonions form a number system with 7 imaginary units e1 .. e7 such that
e1 × e2 = e4 .. e6 × e7 = e2
Octonion multiplication is not only non-commutative but also non-associative. For example,
(e3 × e4) × e1 = e6 × e1 = e5
e3 × (e4 × e1) = e3 × e2 = −e5
Some physicists believe that the octonions may hold the key to describing the symmetries of the Standard Model.

AR See blogs 2018-09-08, 2018-07-23.

2018 October 26

Nuclear Arms

Mikhail Gorbachev

President Trump announced last week the US plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty and his country's intention to build up nuclear arms. The United States has in effect taken the initiative in destroying the entire system of international treaties and accords that served as the underlying foundation for peace and security following World War II.

There will be no winner in a nuclear war.

2018 October 25

English Tommy

Daniel Trilling

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the founder and former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), usually goes by the pseudonym Tommy Robinson.

In May 2018, Robinson was imprisoned for several months for contempt of court. More than 630,000 people signed a petition calling for his release, and solidarity protests were held in Austria, Hungary, Australia, and Canada. US activist Steve Bannon called him "the fucking backbone" of the UK.

Following the end of the EDL in 2013, Tommy went online and now has almost a million followers on Facebook. In a video he posted in May 2017, shortly after the Manchester Arena bombing, he stood in a Manchester street and said: "When you see these communities and you see these houses, you think this is a British community or you might have British Muslims. They are enemy combatants in these houses. In these houses are enemy combatants who want to kill you, maim you, and destroy you."

Robinson was born in Luton in 1982 and was drawn into gang warfare when Asian Muslim residents became more assertive. He founded the EDL in 2009 after Muslim fundamentalists disrupted a homecoming parade in Luton by British troops returning from Iraq. He organised a demonstration that turned violent, then used video footage of it to recruit for a nationwide movement.

Robinson objects to Islamist ideology and says Muslims are an alien presence in British society. He was imprisoned for campaigning on the issue of grooming gangs who sexually exploit teenage girls. Men of Asian Muslim heritage preyed on white victims in the former industrial towns of England.

Robinson: "There is a nation within a nation forming just beneath the surface of the UK. It is a nation built on hatred, on violence, and on Islam."

AR Fortress Europe

UK vs Russia

The Times

Members of the House of Lords lobby the UK government in favor of Russia and get paid by Russian companies. In 2013, Lord Truscott even nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel peace prize.

The UK government and others are trying to persuade Russia to enter the community of civilized nations. The presence in parliament of paid advocates for Russian foreign policy is not helpful.

AR Victory

2018 October 24

Germans Go Green

Financial Times

Polls ahead of Sunday's election in Hesse show the CDU heading for one of its worst ever results in the state. Hesse has been ruled for 19 years by the CDU, the last 5 in coalition with the Greens. But polls show the CDU at 26%, down by a third since 2013. The Greens are polling at 22%, double their result from 2013 and ahead of the SPD.

Germans Are Good

Der Spiegel

Most Germans are financially better off than ever. Years of good economic news has cheered not only companies but also the people. The latest DSGV survey shows 63% of respondents rate their financial status as good and only 8% as bad. Their mood is the best since the first survey in 2001.

Brexit Dunkirk Spirit

Financial Times

Britain is drawing up plans to charter ships to bring in food and medicines in the event of a No Deal Brexit next March, in a move greeted with disbelief at a stormy meeting of Theresa May's cabinet. Government officials say it is almost too late to charter ships on the open market. Brexiteers hope Paris will not allow the Dover-Calais route to be disrupted.

Queen On Brexit

Daily Mirror

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II held a state banquet in honour of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his wife Queen Maxima.

King Willem-Alexander: "At present, a lot of attention is focused on the technical side of Brexit. That's understandable and necessary. But in the midst of all that complexity we should not lose sight of the greater narrative that continues to bind us, the greater narrative of freedom, openness and cooperation, of growth and a prosperity whose fruits are enjoyed by all."

Queen Elizabeth: "As we look toward a new partnership with Europe, it is our shared values and commitment to each other that are out greatest asset, and demonstrate that even through change, our enduring alliance remains strong, and as innovators, traders and internationalists we look with confidence to the future."

Nuclear Buildup Threat

Simon Tisdall

President Trump's decision to rubbish the INF treaty and develop a new generation of US nuclear weapons fires a starting gun in a new global arms race. He says new Russian cruise missiles breach the INF treaty. Russia says Americans have undermined the INF pact by upgrading their nuclear weapons and deploying AM defences in Europe.

The UK and France cannot escape a share of blame for the global deterioration in nuclear security. London and Paris can barely afford their nukes — sad symbols of former great power status.

AR The UK and France have wasted years of opportunity to plan a shared and credible European deterrent, which could even have been financed through the EU.

2018 October 23

Scientists Against Brexit


Nobel-prizewinning scientists from across Europe call on UK and EU leaders to maintain the closest possible cooperation on science after Brexit. They warn that any barriers to research collaboration in the EU will be to the detriment of all.

In a letter sent to UK prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, 29 Nobel laureates and 6 winners of the Fields Medal for mathematics say the UK must step up its commitment to EU programs: "It is widely recognised that investing in research and innovation is increasingly crucial for shaping a better European future."

Royal Society president and 2009 Nobel prizewinner in chemistry Venki Ramakrishnan says both the UK and the EU understand the importance of a good deal for science: "But it has been put on hold while other things are debated. Science needs to be brought back .. and addressed."

A survey at the largest UK biomedical research lab, the Francis Crick Institute in London, found that 97% of more than a thousand researchers think a hard Brexit would be bad for UK science. Half of the staff say they are less likely to stay in the UK if they leave the institute. They worry about losing access to EU funds and about hostility to immigration.

AR There are too few scientists in the UK government. The country is being misruled by illiterates. A supervenient role for EU technocrats is exactly what British citizens need to limit the damage their parliamentary representatives can do.

2018 October 22

Nuclear Forces Breakout

John Lee

US President Donald Trump blamed Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty to justify his announcement over the weekend that the United States will withdraw from the treaty. But US defense chiefs say the violations offer Moscow no military advantage in Europe.

China is not a signatory to the treaty. There is almost no chance that Beijing would agree to INF terms. Its missiles are the central pillar of its approach to defend the Chinese mainland and deter America and other Asian countries from intervening in possible local conflicts.

Chinese missiles are designed to bypass or overwhelm defenses. This approach aims to dissuade the US Navy from intervening in any maritime warzone against China by inflicting prohibitive costs. Developing an effective counter would most likely violate the INF Treaty.

May On Brexit

Laura Kuenssberg, 1550 UCT

May says these four things have to happen:
1 Legally binding UK wide backstop
2 Option to extend the implementation period
3 Neither 1 or 2 can be indefinite
4 Govt to guarantee NI biz full access to rest of the UK

Brexit Dunkirk

The Times

Today the prime minister will offer the House of Commons an update on Brexit negotiations.

AR In a Times comment to this article I posted the following sentence. Democracy is not a court ritual whereby as a favour from on high the unwashed masses are graciously allowed a single binary vote (1 bit per voter) on an issue of existential importance, but a process by which those masses use any civil means at their disposal to make their views known and accorded due respect by a governing elite which has no right to rule except that conferred by those same masses.

In an earlier Facebook exchange I let slip a dog of war: Brexit is to Putin what Dunkirk was to Hitler. It removes a big player from the continental chessboard — assuming, to paraphrase Clausewitz, that economics is the continuation of war by other means.

Finster in Europa

Arno Frank

Brexit ist mehr Ausdruck der Krise als die Krise selber. Das erste Referendum war ein Beispiel dafür, wie ignorant die politische Klasse Englands mit ihrer Bevölkerung umgangen ist. Das Weggehen von England ist eine europäische Katastrophe.

Personenfreizügigkeit werde hierzulande nur aus einer Wohlstandsperspektive betrachtet. In Rumänien dagegen, auf dem Land, da sind die Ärzte alle weg, die sind in England.

Neben dem Frieden ist ein Wohlstand für alle das wichtigste Versprechen der Europäischen Union gewesen − und gebrochen worden. Was sich in Polen abspielt ist bei weitem gefährlicher für den Zusammenhalt der EU als der Brexit.

AR Fragments from last night's ARD talk show hosted by Anne Will.

2018 October 21

Mission to Mercury


The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe's spaceport in Kourou at 01:45:28 UCT on 20 October on a mission to study the mysteries of the solar system's innermost planet.

Mercury is close to the Sun, on average just under 60 Gm compared to 150 Gm for Earth. At its equator during the day, its surface temperature can reach 700 K, while at the poles and at night it dips to 100 K. Any technology we send there must be tough.

A lot of energy is needed to put a spacecraft into orbit near Mercury. The ΔV needed for Mercury is about 18.5 km/s, compared to the 17 km/s needed to reach Pluto.

Christian Liberty

Harriet Sherwood

Liberty University backs Donald Trump. Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr was instrumental in delivering 81% of white Christian evangelical voters for Trump in 2016.

On September 29, 2018, Falwell tweeted: "Conservatives and Christians need to stop electing nice guys. They might make great Christian leaders but the US needs street fighters like Donald Trump .. many Repub leaders are a bunch of wimps!"

Founded in 1971, Liberty is one of the biggest Christian educational institutions in America. Faculty members have conservative theological views, classes start with prayers, the campus is dry, dorms are segregated, and there is a curfew. The university's mission is to train champions for Christ.

A Christian Myth

The Trump Prophecy is a movie based on actual events. Mark Taylor, a fireman from Orlando, was forced to retire after suffering from PTSD. After nightmares featuring demons and hellfire, in April 2011, while watching a TV interview with Trump, Taylor heard God say:
"You are hearing the voice of the next president."

A Fresh Vote

The Observer

Hard Tory Brexiteers, and many in the English Conservative party, do not understand Europe or the EU or what it means to be European. They cling to a grossly distorted, sentimental view of history that portrays the UK as a unique exemplar of enlightened governance, swashbuckling enterprise, and imperial endeavour that rose to be first among nations. They believe Britain can lead the world.

The legions of People's Vote supporters who marched through London, and the millions who back their call for a second referendum, understand the idea and importance of Europe — the chance to travel, study, work, and live abroad, inclusiveness, shared values and laws, mutual tolerance, and a joyful openness to the majestic richness of myriad lifestyles, languages, traditions, and beliefs.

For many British young people, Brexit is a wanton act of family separation, brutally wrecking their European home. Unrealistic claims have been made about civil unrest if Brexit is thwarted. Yet if it goes ahead, the prospective backlash among our younger generations at seeing their future opportunities and prosperity so cruelly curtailed is alarming. Many will simply up and leave.

Shame on these hard Tory Brexiteers. Whenever Theresa May tries to turn their Brexit demands into binding words on paper, they scream betrayal. Every time her impractical ideas are rebuffed by a unified EU, they plunge back into denial. Every time the prime minister hints at a concession, they turn rebellious.

Brexit will be a disaster. The people must take charge.

People's March

Daily Mirror/The Guardian
An estimated 700,000 people turned out in central London to demand a People's Vote on Brexit

Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order
of the Bath derives from
a medieval ceremony for
appointing a knight that
involves taking a bath

They Shall Not Grow Old
coming soon




2018 October 20

A People's March

The Independent

Today, people will march in London for a Final Say on Brexit through a People's Vote.
The best way to break the impasse in Brussels and Westminster is to go back to the people.
The 2016 referendum was a vote with no idea of the consequences — now we know more.
The EU will delay the Article 50 process while the UK holds a People's Vote.

Whitehall Strikes Back

The Times

Three former cabinet secretaries who have served every prime minister since Margaret Thatcher accuse Conservative Brexiteers of undermining the integrity of the civil service.

Robert Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Ilminster, who served as cabinet secretary from 1979 to 1987, was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1974 and a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1975, and was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1978 and to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1983.

Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell, who served as cabinet secretary from 1988 to 1998, was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1986 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1988, was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1992 and to Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter in 2003, and became a Privy Counsellor in 2004.

Gus O'Donnell, Baron O'Donnell, who served as cabinet secretary from 2005 to 2011, was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1994, was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 2005 and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 2011, and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy in 2014 and In 2016 and a Fellow of the ASS in 2016.

They defend acting cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, who says Brexiteers should be ashamed of themselves for attacking Theresa May's chief Brexit adviser Oliver Robbins.

A People's Vote

Matthew Parris

Conservatives warned Theresa May at the outset that the Brexiteers would never be her friends.
Soon the Commons must decide the fate of any deal with the EU she gets:
 If MPs reject it, put it to the people
 If a no-deal Brexit looms, put it to the people
 Now we know better what Brexit means, put it to the people
A new vote must be a response to public demand.

2018 October 19

Quantum Brexit

The Guardian

Theresa May is conducting parallel negotiations at home and abroad. Her rhetoric in the domestic debate is far removed from her arguments across the Channel.

Northern Ireland is the main problem. Brussels sees legal commitments. Brexiteers dismiss them as bargaining chips and see the backstop as a wicked way to separate Northern Ireland from Britain.

May has both capitulated to Brexiteer demands and pledged to honour the Good Friday agreement. She cannot stay true to both. She is struggling both to get cake and to persuade Brits to eat it.

AR Brits are living in a superposition of Brexit and no Brexit, deal and no deal. Like Schrödinger's cat, the UK is both dead and alive. But its state will soon collapse.

Collapsing Superposition

William Cook

German chancellor Angela Merkel could tell EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to stop being so beastly and give the UK a "have cake and eat it" deal. But she says in means in and out means out.

Full membership of the EU is by far the best way forward for any European nation. But the EU is better off without the UK. The EU will tackle its problems a lot better without Brits sniping from the sidelines.

The British notion that, when push comes to shove, Germany will protect its economic interests betrays a basic misunderstanding of the EU. After WW2, Brits were reluctant to pool their national sovereignty. For repentant Germany, sharing sovereignty was the only way ahead.

Germany packs a big punch, softened by its EU membership. Germany sells a lot to Britain, but more to France and even more to Benelux. Germany has land borders with eight EU countries, all their capitals a short drive away. Germany will not bend the rules for Britain.

AR No super quantum cake position for the UK.

Quantum Physics: Many Worlds

Philip Ball

A central problem for quantum mechanics is the rupture created by observation or measurement. The wave function defines all possible observable states of a quantum system, all of which have equal reality until a measurement is made. But the wave function collapses when we make a measurement and see a single outcome.

In the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, all of the possible states remain real and there is no collapse. Measurements split worlds off from the universal wave function. Alternative outcomes of a quantum experiment occupy separate and parallel worlds.

A quantum system decoheres as its superposed states are separated and scrambled by their interactions with their environment. Worlds split away via decoherence and are separate when they can no longer interfere with other worlds.

The MWI requires no changes to standard quantum theory but it changes the notion of self. After I make a measurement, two or more versions of me appear where before there was one. Our versions go separate ways in their own worlds.

Consciousness relies on experience evolving in time. In the MWI, its experience of continuity survives countless quantum splittings. We have probabilistic beliefs about the outcome of a split because we don't know which branch we'll end up in when our consciousness goes down one branch.

Imagine Alice places a binary bet. If the MWI is correct, Alice Before bets half-and-half, but Alice After won in one world and lost in the other, in both cases with probability 1. Quantum probabilities disconnect Alice Before from Alice After.

The MWI seems unable to account for the ongoing experience of a persistent observer.

AR Quantum ontology repackages what was already an issue in classical epistemology for Alice and her bet. Things change — this is the central fact of consciousness and our experience of time. I cover all this in depth in my 2009 book Mindworlds.

2018 October 18

The Long Goodbye

The Guardian

Last night, EU leaders dined on pan-fried mushrooms, fillet of turbot cooked in wheat beer, and a trio of fruit sorbets. They discussed their next steps on Brexit following a 15-minute meeting with Theresa May, who was not invited to dinner.

May spoke about the courage, trust, and leadership needed to reach agreement. She expressed a willingness to extend the transition period beyond 2020. EU officials said the diners did not think it enough to warrant a further summit in November.

Visiting Venus

Gareth Dorrian, Ian Whittaker

NASA is working on an astronaut mission to Venus: the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept — HAVOC.

NASA plans to use the dense Venusian atmosphere as a base for exploration. No date for a HAVOC mission has yet been announced: NASA first needs to notch up a few successful test missions. The mission is based on existing technology, using airships that can float in the upper atmosphere for long periods of time.

The upper atmosphere of Venus is the most Earth-like location in the solar system. Between altitudes of 50 km and 60 km, the pressure and temperature are comparable to regions of the Earth's lower atmosphere. The atmospheric pressure in the Venusian atmosphere at 55 km is about 0.5 bar, with a temperature between 20 C and 30 C, dense enough to protect you from hard solar radiation, but with enough sunlight for solar power (about 1.4 times more than on Earth).

The airship will float around the planet, blown by the wind. It could be filled with a breathable gas mixture such as oxygen and nitrogen for buoyancy. Breathable air is less dense than the Venusian atmosphere, which consists of 97% carbon dioxide and about 3% nitrogen.

Trace amounts of sulfuric acid form dense clouds that make Venus look bright viewed from Earth. The cloud layer is between 45 km and 65 km, with the acid haze extending down to about 30 km.

The airship will need to be resistant to acid corrosion. Several commercially available materials, including teflon and a number of plastics, have a high acid resistance and can be used for the outer envelope of the airship.

Some extremophile organisms on Earth could withstand the conditions in the upper atmosphere. HAVOC could search for possible Venusian life.

The Venusian climate is the result of a runaway greenhouse effect. It will hold lessons for us.

AR See blog 2017-11-14, 2015-08-31, 2014-12-23.

2018 October 17

Adapting to a Warming Planet

New Scientist

The Global Commission on Adaptation says we must not only try to limit further global warming but also do far more to ensure we survive it. The impact of global warming is already being felt much sooner and more powerfully than expected. To keep reducing global poverty and to maintain economic growth, societies must do much more, much faster, to adapt.

Commissioner and former UN head Ban Ki-moon: "Adaptation action is not only the right action to do, it is the smart thing. We need to make this case more aggressively. The costs of adapting are less than the cost of doing business as usual. And the benefits many times larger."

Commissioner and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva: "A very significant opportunity for adaptation comes from mainstreaming resilience in the normal investments we make."


European Parliament

EU citizens were asked about their country's membership in the EU: on average, 62% of respondents believe it is a good thing and 68% consider that their country has benefited from its EU membership. Today, 66% of Europeans would vote for their country to remain in the EU, 17% would vote to leave, and 17% are undecided.

As for the direction things are taking in the EU, 50% say things in the EU are going in the wrong direction, 52% say their own country is taking the wrong direction, 33% say things are going in the right direction in their country, and 28% say the same for the EU.

As for the EP, 32% hold a positive view of the EP, 43% remain neutral, and 21% have a negative view. As for whether they would like to see a stronger role for the EP in the future, 48% would like a stronger role, 27% would prefer a weaker role, and 15% see no need for a change.

Europeans confirm their broad support for the euro: on average across the EU, 61% of respondents are in favor of the euro, with 77% inside the EZ and lower levels in countries outside the EZ.

Asked about the most important issues for the EP to tackle, 50% cite immigration, 47% the economy and growth, and 44% terrorism. Behind the EU averages, opinions in member states vary.

The Neoliberal Con Trick

Aditya Chakrabortty

The IMF published a report last week that totted up the public debt and assets of 31 countries and found the UK has among the weakest public finances of the lot.

The UK is in this sorry state because Margaret Thatcher deregulated finance and used North Sea oil revenues to pay for big tax cuts. The result is a finance-heavy economy and a government £1 trillion worse off since the banking crash. British governments have privatised nearly all public assets, often at giveaway prices, to friends in the City.

British governments have been asset-stripping the public sector for decades. This has enriched a select few. Instead of competitive utilities and sounder public finances, we have natural monopolies handed over to the wealthy, banks that dump their liabilities on the public, and an outsourcing industry that feasts upon the public purse.

The IMF defines the ideology of the small state as neoliberalism. That ideology has failed to deliver. It has ripped you off and robbed you blind.





Sir Robert Syms, MP for Poole, briefs local Conservative party members on Brexit at the Parkstone Yacht Club last Friday

Mahatma Gandhi
by Pankaj Mishra

Kein Islam
Michael Sohn
Fortress Europe
will impact Britain,
Brexit or no Brexit

Final say

Landtagswahl Bayern
Provisional results

Party Vote % Seats
CSU 37.2 85
Grüne 17.5 38
Freie W. 11.6 27
AfD 10.2 22
SPD 9.7 22
FDP 5.1 11
Other 8.7 0

Mit uns
Go Green in Germany

Brexit Hell
The Times

Soyuz launch
Soyuz MS10, Baikonur

hairy black hole hairy black hole


2018 October 16

Brexit Latest

1504 UCT
European council president Donald Tusk: "We need something very creative .. maybe we need a new method of thinking."

1352 UCT
Theresa May: "If we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this."

Last Supper
Theresa May will address EU leaders Wednesday night before an EU27 dinner in an attempt to patch up differences over the Irish border.
Bundesregierung Europa-Minister Michael Roth: "Take responsibility and be constructive."

EU leaders have scrapped plans to discuss and publish a draft declaration this week on a future EU trade deal with the UK.


Rachel Sylvester

Theresa May is hemmed in. A government minister: "She's in a situation where every move she makes worsens the national predicament. We still basically have no agreed government position. It's absurd. If you were playing computer chess the only way out of this would be to press the reset button."

Another minister: "The Conservative party has taken leave of its senses .. The country is being held hostage by petty politicians pushing their own fortunes."

By refusing to change course, Theresa May has only shown weakness. Her strategy seems to be to leave everything until the last minute, whip up hostility to the EU as an external adversary, and hope that she can cobble together a deal that parliament supports for fear of something worse.

Another minister: "This is such a global shambles. We are a laughing stock on the world stage ..
I feel we have just got to start with a totally clean slate."

AR Only "darkest before dawn" magical thinking is keeping this show on the road. The obvious — and completely reasonable — solution is to withdraw Article 50 and stay in the EU. The only loss would be to British pride, which is a relic of times gone by that Brits need to downsize before the world of hard knocks does it for them.


The Guardian

Across Europe, the populist parties seem to be having their moment. Their most obvious feature is hostility to outsiders. They produce a sense of belonging by combining religion and nationalism to create communities.

In a world where loneliness is a problem and where the global economy works heedless of the suffering of individuals, community and belonging seem to be enduring stores of worth. Communities are for life, and the belonging they offer is awarded on grounds that have nothing to do with merit. Populist parties deny community rights to others.

AR The Guardian is too gently liberal to press the painful point. Identity politics is the last stand of the downtrodden who have nothing more to give in an age of huge and terrifying threats such as climate change, the rise of the robots, Chinese economic competition, Islamic demographic competition, and the meritocracy of richer and smarter people.


Melanie Phillips

Western democracy is under threat from identity politics and populism. The new parties are rooted in identity issues based on race, ethnicity, or religion. They close minds against evidence in a culture war that brooks no deviation.

Belief in democracy entails understanding that sometimes you will be outvoted by those with contrary views. Yet a Remainer faction is campaigning for a second referendum. It used to be that those who lose a vote would abide by the outcome. For some Remainers, we must vote again and again until the people deliver the result they want.

AR In general elections, we vote again and again, every five years at least, in the vain hope that we might one day get good governance. As for Brexit, the facts upon which the people can vote have so changed in the last two-plus years that it would be churlish to deny the need for a refresher vote. Democracy is not one man, one vote, one time.

2018 October 15

Brexit: May Out Of Moves

Laura Kuenssberg

Theresa May's Conservative party won't accept a proposal to keep the UK essentially in the customs union. Parliament is likely to block no deal. The EU won't accept her Chequers plan.

A loyal minister: "She is like a chess player who only has the king left — all she can do is move one square at a time until she is checkmated."

"The EU are treating us with naked contempt — we must abandon this surrender of our country."
Boris Johnson

AR Abandon Brexit.

Bavaria: Maximal Uncertainty

Der Spiegel

The ruling CSU were the big losers in the Bavarian state elections. They lost over 10% of their votes and thus their absolute majority in the state parliament. The SPD lost big too, with over 10% of their votes gone. The AfD won over 10% of the vote and the Greens increased their vote by almost 9%. The Greens are now the second biggest party, ahead of the SPD.

New Headaches in Berlin

Leopold Traugott

Recent national polls see the parties of the "GroKo" grand coalition down at just 41% together, compared to 53% still in September 2017, and 67% in 2013. All three parties — CDU, CSU, SPD — urgently need to reconsider their strategy.

The CSU may dump party leader and German interior minister Horst Seehofer. The party needs to reconsider its current approach of copying AfD hardline positions. The SPD must consider whether the coalition makes sense for them as it bleeds voters in all directions.

The Greens doubled their votes in Bavaria. They are riding high in national polls. But the AfD is the largest opposition party in the Bundesrat.

German political fragmentation is continuing at pace.

AR Good for the Greens at least.

2018 October 14

High Voter Turnout in Bavaria

Der Spiegel

Voter turnout in local elections in Bavaria was over 40% by midday. The CSU is expected to lose its overall majority. The AfD and the Greens are expected to gain seats.

Possible coalitions
 CSU-Freie Wähler

AR Vote Green and save the Earth!

DUP Warns No Deal Brexit Likely

Mail on Sunday

DUP leader Arlene Foster is braced for negotiations to collapse after a furious row with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

Barnier says a deal must include a backstop to keep Northern Ireland within EU jurisdiction. The DUP will not let Northern Ireland be treated any differently from the rest of the UK. Theresa May relies on the DUP MPs in Westminster to support her government, so she may propose a new backstop that keeps the whole of the UK in the EU customs union indefinitely.

Foster described Barnier as "difficult and hostile" and said the DUP is ready to block a Brexit deal.

Brexit Bollocks

David Davis

Brexit panic has started on the Continent.

The government is proposing that the entire UK should stay within the EU customs union until the Northern Ireland border issue is resolved. Extending the Brexit implementation period has all the drawbacks of staying within the customs union, plus several more. It is completely unacceptable.

Keeping Northern Ireland inside the single market would mean having a border in the Irish Sea for goods and people. This is completely unacceptable to the DUP and to many people in the UK.

The negotiation currently focuses on the withdrawal agreement, pushing to one side our future economic relationship as something to be resolved after March 2019. By then we will have pledged to give £39 billion to the EU. This is by far our biggest bargaining chip.

The Chequers plan should be dead. The commission has rejected it. The public does not like it. Parliament will not vote for it. It is time that the prime minister reset the negotiations.

Now is the time when we can start to exact concessions from the EU. German companies will lose about a third of their car sales and two-thirds of their dairy sales to the UK if we went to standard WTO import tariffs. Ireland's agricultural sector would face enormous risks. Belgium and the Netherlands will each face a hit worth 3%−4% of their GDP.

Now we must drive a hard bargain.

AR Davis has gone completely nuts.

Malala @ Oxford

Mirror on Sunday

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who is reading PPE at Oxford, has joined the Port and Policy group run by Oxford University Conservative Association. Jacob Rees-Mogg is its honorary president and former members include Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher.

The weekly forum has been rocked by controversy after sozzled members reportedly knocked back 43 shots of port each at a party and bellowed "my castle is bigger than yours" and "I'll buy their families" when refused more booze.

AR I'm glad I didn't join the Oafs @ Oxford!

2018 October 13

Brexit KOs Global Order

Ian Bremmer

It does the "special relationship" between the US and Europe no favors. Differences over Russia, NATO funding, and Mideast policy strain US-EU relations. Brexit undermines the transatlantic alliance because it diverts Brussels from working with Washington.

It will weaken the UK too. It will need its partnership with the US more than ever, especially as London's standing as a global banking center diminishes. President Trump, who will have a lot more negotiating leverage with the UK for a one-on-one trade deal.

It makes the UK look isolated. Britain accounts for 13.6% of Chinese trade with the EU. Given tensions with Trump, China wants less political drama, not more, in its global trade negotiations. China will be cautious about commercial commitments with the UK.

It comes at a bad time in regard to Russia, with Trump well disposed toward Russia and Europe pragmatic due to military weakness and energy concerns. The UK can become a world power in its own right, but it will begin doing so in a volatile geopolitical environment.

It will not immediately threaten the EU. The hot mess in British politics has dampened enthusiasm in other EU countries for an exit. But a weaker EU will lose luster on the global stage. France and Germany will go for deeper EZ integration but meet resistance.

It will slow the trade integration that has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty around the world. It will be the biggest win to date for country-first populism. It will further fragment the global political system and generate greater friction in global markets.

Soyuz KOs Space Station

New Scientist

US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin survived the crash landing of the Soyuz MS10 capsule. But the International Space Station might not survive. The docked Soyuz at the ISS is the now only way for the three astronauts there to return to Earth.

The Soyuz launch system might be grounded for a long time. NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011 and a new US spacecraft may not be ready until 2020. China is now the only country with a working craft capable of taking humans to space.

The Chinese Shenzhou craft could theoretically dock with the ISS, but such a mission would be extraordinary. So the ISS may be empty for the first time since 2000. That could doom it.

AR A Chinese rescue recalls the movies Gravity and The Martian.

2018 October 12

Against Nationalism

Seyla Benhabib

Immanuel Kant critiqued pure reason to make room for freedom and morality. He said only
     a critical exercise of reason can save us from false beliefs.
 G.W.F. Hegel unfolded an immanent critique in a dialectic of thought that ended when
     thought and actuality were reconciled.
 Georg Lukács introduced a concept of praxis. We are historical subjects who express our
     freedom by transforming the world through activity.
 Max Horkheimer developed a critical theory of society. Human mastery over nature came at
     the expense of internal repression. Critical theory is a theory of crises.
 Michel Foucault said society is constituted by a discontinuous and fragmentary series of
     power-knowledge configurations, full of displacements and erasures.
 Jacques Derrida said the silences and gaps of a text are indices of the repressed subjectivity
     of others. Deconstruction thus has an ethical core.
 Jürgen Habermas said economic and political crises disrupt our sense of shared meaning.
     His theory of communicative action bid farewell to the myth of a unified working class.

My work aims to overcome sociological nationalism. The boundaries of the demos have not been
formed democratically. The nation is a privileged collective identity. Democracy has a bounded collective subject, but liberalism is cosmopolitan. Liberal democracy is an oxymoron.

2018 October 11

Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair

Sasha Haco, Stephen W. Hawking, Malcolm J. Perry, Andrew Strominger (2018)

Given the conjecture that the entropy of black holes can be understood in a manner similar to their stringy counterparts, we argue that the black hole Hilbert space must be contained within the Hilbert space of states outside the black hole. So there are no independent interior black hole microstates at all! This solves the information paradox.

Soft Hair on Black Holes

Stephen W. Hawking, Malcolm J. Perry, Andrew Strominger (2016)

Conservation laws require black holes to carry a large amount of soft hair. This paper gives an explicit description of soft hair in terms of soft gravitons or photons on the black hole horizon, and shows that complete information about their quantum state is stored on a holographic plate at the future boundary of the horizon. Soft hair gives an effective number of soft degrees of freedom proportional to the horizon area in Planck units.

AR I think Frank Wilczek would call soft hair a quantum atmosphere.


Dad's Army


2018 October 10


Andy Ross

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has won a stunning victory over the American superpower that defeated the former Soviet Union ..

President Donald Trump of the United States owes his extraordinary propulsion into the White House, in all probability, to his longtime "friend" and hero Vladimir Putin ..

The rise of Trump in America may look less like a classic transition to tyranny than a very modern transition to chaos .. no one expected the new U.S. president to be so entangled by his past dealings in Russia and with Russians ..

PDF, 10 pages, 130 KB



UK public finances are among the weakest in the world. Since the 2008 financial crash, almost £1 trillion has been wiped off the wealth of the UK public sector.

The IMF performed a health check on the wealth of 31 nations to judge how well governments are prepared for economic shocks. Norway came top, thanks to its war chest built on its publicly held oil wealth. The UK was in 30th position and Portugal came bottom.

AR Sad

2018 October 9

Climate Change Denial: 5 Stages

The Guardian

1 Deny the problem exists
2 Deny we're the cause
3 Deny it's a problem
4 Deny we can solve it
5 It's too late

The Trump administration is at stage 5.

Trump Coal

The New York Times

Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will bring dire and irreversible changes by 2040.

President Trump continues to praise coal. He has directed his EPA to reverse the Obama administration steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Trump plan would cause as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030, as well as 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory disease and billions of dollars in new health care costs.

The EPA plans to dissolve its Office of the Science Advisor.

Dad's Army Brexit: Don't Panic!

Anne Perkins

UK attorney general Geoffrey Cox cheered a Conservative party conference audience by quoting John Milton:

"Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant Nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: Methinks I see her as an Eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazl'd eyes at the full midday beam."

UKTV plans to remake the three lost episodes of Dad's Army. Repeats of the TV series, which ran from 1968 to 1977, still top the BBC Two ratings. How nice to know that it was Dunkirk spirit and British genius that won the war, to know that Britain is best when she stands alone.

Millennials don't think like that at all.

Quantum Verification Problem Solved

Erica Klarreich

Urmila Mahadev has just solved a major problem in quantum computation: If you ask a quantum computer to perform a computation for you, how can you know whether it has really followed your instructions, or even done anything quantum at all?

If you distrust an ordinary computer, you can in theory check its computations for yourself. But quantum systems resist this kind of checking. Their inner state is generally a superposition, which as soon as you measure it collapses into a classical state.

Mahadev, 28, has come up with an interactive protocol by which users can be certain that a quantum computer is doing what they want. She presented it at the 2018 Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science and was awarded the best paper and best student paper prizes.

A quantum computer can prove its computations to a verifier that measures single qubits. Mahadev used post-quantum cryptography to get a quantum computer to build a secret state whose description is known to the classical verifier, but not to the quantum computer itself. This relies on a trapdoor function that is easy to carry out but hard to reverse without the secret key.

Then you can get a quantum computer to create a secret state as follows:
1 Ask the computer to build a superposition of all the possible inputs to the function.
2 Tell the computer to apply the function to the superposition to create a superposition of all the
    possible outputs. The input and output superpositions are entangled.
3 Ask the computer to measure the output state and tell you the result. The input state collapses
    to match it, since they are entangled.

The trapdoor function's secret key reveals the two states that make up the input superposition. Mahadev built it using a type of cryptography called Learning With Errors (LWE) to create a quantum version of blind computation, by which cloud-computing users can mask their data so the cloud computer can't read it while working on it.

Mahadev's protocol requires the quantum computer to create a secret state and entangle it with the state it aims to measure. The quantum computer doesn't know the secret state but the verifier does, so the quantum computer can't cheat. If the result looks correct, the verifier can be sure it is.

The protocol presumes that quantum computers cannot crack LWE. At present, LWE is a leading candidate for post-quantum cryptography. It may soon be adopted as the new NIST standard.

The protocol is unlikely to be implemented soon in a real quantum computer as it requires too much computing power. Scott Aaronson: "It is something you could start thinking about, if all goes well, at the next stage of the evolution of quantum computers."

AR Nice!


Shrinkage of sea ice in the Arctic

"A tremendous victory
for our nation"

Judge Kavanaugh

QE2 coronation
Queen Elizabeth II coronation
Westminster Abbey, 1953
Since the Harold II coronation
in 1066, every monarch bar
two has been crowned in
Westminster Abbey.

Bin Brexit

Bollocks to Brexit

Joan Williams
Queen Elizabeth II,
Prince Charles

in person

Theresa May
The Times
May: "Our future is in our hands"

"There are one or two
things that Boris said
that I'm cross about"
Theresa May

"Artificial Intelligence ..
has the potential to have a
bigger impact than almost
any technology yet invented
.. I'm optimistic that .. we
can make a success of it."
Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP 
The Future of Work

National Geographic

People's Vote


2018 October 8

Urgent: Cut Global Warming to 1.5 K

UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Governments around the world must take rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.

Temperatures will reach 1.5 K above pre-industrial levels by 2030, based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, precipitating higher risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods, and food shortages around the planet.

Global net emissions of CO2 must fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" by 2050.

UK Versus Russia

The Times

UK defence chiefs have war-gamed a massive cyber-strike to black out Moscow if Russia launches a military attack on the West. Their only other way to meet Kremlin aggression was to fire a Trident nuclear missile. They were left "ashen-faced" at how fast a confrontation could escalate.

US Army Builds Robot Attack Tanks
Fox News

The US Army is engineering autonomy kits to give robot tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.

AR Russia could build self-driving and remote control technology into its Armata main battle tanks. An army of robotanks could roll over Europe in days. The European response could include Tiger antitank helicopter drones coordinated by Galileo and NATO C4I systems.

Civilian casualties could be reduced by coding humanitarian ethics into the robots. This scenario could easily burn a few trillion dollars and maintain full employment well into the age of robot automation. But it would not be carbon neutral, so no go.

2018 October 7


Doris Kearns Goodwin

Abraham Lincoln spent a lot of time at the theater to reduce his anxiety during the civil war. Theodore Roosevelt exercised two hours every day in the afternoon. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a cocktail party every night during World War 2.

Lyndon Baines Johnson could never unwind. He wanted to be remembered for civil rights. When he talked about Vietnam his mood would plunge. He talked about his regret that the war had turned out badly and taken away the energy of the things he really cared about.

What made all four of these guys great leaders is they were seeking not celebrity but fame, and fame means creating something lasting that stands the test of time.

Donald Trump doesn't have the temperament to be a leader. Compared to Teddy Roosevelt, who had a square deal for the rich and the poor, the capitalist and the wage worker, Trump says that a deal that says both sides win is just a bunch of crap and all that matters is that you win.

Teddy became as much of a folk hero as Trump has become. He was known for his blistering language and short punchy statements: speak softly and carry a big stick, don't hit until you have to and then hit hard. He established a rapport with the people.

Leadership in Turbulent Times

Church and State

Harriet Sherwood

One day, in an Anglican service, King Charles III will be anointed with holy oil by the Archbishop of Canterbury, conferring God's grace on the new head of state.
    Archbishop: "Will you, to the utmost of your power, maintain in the United Kingdom ..
      the settlement of the Church of England?"
    Charles: "All this I promise to do."

The UK is the only country in Europe to retain a religious ceremony to crown a new monarch. Yet the proportion of the UK population identifying as Anglican has fallen to a record low of 14%. Among adults under the age of 24, it is 2%. A majority of the population say they have no religion.

The UK establishment confers a dual role on the monarch as head of state and head of the Church of England. In the House of Lords, 26 seats are reserved for Anglican bishops. Church laws are approved by parliament and every inch of England is divided into parishes. The law requires every state school to hold a Christian act of daily worship.

Anglican priest Giles Fraser: "We've been turned into flunkies of the establishment, seduced by pomp and circumstance. Disestablishment would require the C of E to reinvent itself."

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams: "I'm not interested in a halfway house. If we want a republic, let's have a republic. If we want a monarchy, then we have to accept that a monarchy is in some ways a profoundly symbolic thing."

2018 October 6

Imaging Our Black Hole

Seth Fletcher

At the heart of our galaxy, about 26,000 light-years inbound from Earth, Sagittarius B2 is a cloud of organic molecules. Another 390 light-years or so takes you to the inner parsec, where tubes of frozen lightning called cosmic filaments streak the sky and gravity becomes a foaming sea of riptides, space becomes a bath of radiation, and atoms dissolve into a fog of particles. Here is the supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way: Sagittarius A*.

Last year, astronomers made the inaugural run of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), designed to take the first picture of a black hole. The EHT uses very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) and combines the collected data on a supercomputer. EHT director Shep Doeleman calls it the biggest telescope in the history of humanity.

A black hole is made of gravity. Its boundary, the event horizon, is a one-way exit from the universe. If a black hole passes in front of a bright background, we should see its silhouette. An Earth-size collection of radio telescopes observing Sagittarius A* in the microwave spectrum would see a dark disk ten times larger than the event horizon, with bright rays tracing a glowing ring around it.

A close look at a black hole can help us study the origins and fates of stars and galaxies. Galaxies and their central black holes seem to evolve together. When the black hole settles down, the next generation of stars can form. How and why these things happen is still a mystery.

General relativity describes the universe on the largest scales. Quantum theory governs the subatomic world. But general relativity and quantum theory describe worlds that look nothing like each other. Black holes can test them. If the EHT results failed to match predictions, they would provide clues for a theory of quantum gravity.

In June 2018, astronomers released the final Sagittarius A* and M87 data from the EHT. In the next few months, they will finish their analysis and publish their results.

AR This is truly exciting!

EU Drafts No Deal Plan

Financial Times

Brussels will next week unveil contingency measures for Brexit that could force flight cancellations and leave exporters facing massive disruption in case no deal is reached by next March.

The EU plans no special arrangements for customs or road transport and only limited provisions for financial services. The EU will not relax customs and agricultural controls and urges member states to enforce EU import rules from the first day of Brexit.

The UK and the EU must reach a deal by 17 October.

Juncker Speaks

Daniel Boffey

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says there must be limits to the freedom of the press and accuses British media of trampling over the human rights of politicians.

On the 2016 Brexit referendum: "If the commission intervened, perhaps the right questions would have entered the debate. Now you discover new problems almost daily, on both sides. At that time, it was already clear to us what trials and tribulations this pitiful vote of the British would lead to .. The British press .. do not respect the human rights of political actors at all. Press freedom also has its limits .. One should not bring people in privacy in distress."

On the EU summit on 17 October: "I assume that we find an agreement as to the terms of the withdrawal. We also need to agree on a political statement that accompanies this withdrawal agreement. We are not that far yet."

AR Queen Elizabeth II is consubstantial with the United Kingdom in the same sense that Jesus Christ is consubstantial with God. Her Majesty holds audience with the prime minister of her government in weekly meetings, where Theresa May receives instruction on the issues of the day. Is it not high time Her Majesty paid due respect to her subjects by making known her views on Brexit?

2018 October 5

Brexiteers Misunderstand the EU

Martin Wolf

UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt had a reputation for sobriety. His parallel between the EU and the Soviet Union was stupid and offensive. The EU had merely said the Chequers plan will not work.

Understanding the EU is is a necessary condition for dealing with it sensibly. For the EU leaders, the survival of the EU is an existential issue. Relations with a departing UK are relatively insignificant.

The EU is a peace project, built on hope for a prosperous, integrated Europe able to speak up in the world. For Brexiteers to despise these goals or hope the EU will collapse into chaos is malevolent.

The EU works by embedding mutual relations in a framework of rules. The trust necessary to make it work depends on this. The rules need to be clear and subject to an authoritative legal process.

One EU red line is that preserving peace on the island of Ireland is more important than the UK wish list. The myth that EU obduracy snatched a glorious Brexit from the British people is poisonous.


Simon Kuper

Brino — The most likely outcome is Brexit in name only or a very soft Brexit.

Hard — Many Brexiteers would love it hard: a return to an imagined 1940, minus Luftwaffe bombs. Recent polls show about a third of Britons back no deal.

Remain — If parliament votes for a second referendum, even though neither party leadership wants it, a narrow Remain victory would merely show that hard Brexit is not the "will of the people" and needs massive toning down.

Blame — If the EU lets the UK stay, Brexiteers will forever afterwards blame every British problem on what they see the illegal decision to remain. Few EU officials want Britain back now, anyway. Trust has evaporated, with successive UK foreign secretaries comparing the EU to Hitler or the USSR, and ministers hinting they could weasel on agreements with Brussels.

Unionism Is Dead

Gareth Brown

A majority of Leave voters would be happy for the UK to crumble if it delivered Brexit. The lack of a compelling message as to the point of the UK has weakened the concept of unionism at a time when the prime minister is trying to unite the UK. Perhaps unionism was never alive in middle England.

The value of devolution for the national identities of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland has not been made clear to most people in England. A more symmetrical design, with a strong message, would have had more chance of fostering UK team spirit.

AR Wind up the whole rotten show.

2018 October 4

US Senate Should Not Confirm Kavanaugh

Signed by 1,000+ Law Professors

At the Senate hearings on September 27, Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.

Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry. Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, he responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators.

We believe he did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land.

UK-EU Customs Union

Financial Times

Ireland backs Theresa May's emerging plan for an all-UK customs union with the EU. A senior Irish official: "Whether Europe accept it or not is another conversation."

Brussels sees attempts to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU after Brexit as cherry picking.

Eastern Germany

Anna Sauerbrey

October 3, 1990, was the day the former East and West Germany reunified as one nation. Today, east and west are drifting apart again: Violent crimes committed by right-wing extremists are far more frequent in the five eastern German states than in the west.

Former president of the German parliament Wolfgang Thierse, who once worked briefly at the ministry of culture in the German Democratic Republic, says there is no big divide: eastern Germany has areas of prosperity and innovation beside areas of squalor and despair.

The German government's annual report on the state of the union shows that pensions and wages are rising and unemployment is down, but average income in the former East lags the former West by around 15%. The eastern economy sports some business champions, but has fewer large companies, less international investment, and an older demographic.

The legacy of the German Democratic Republic runs deep: 28 years after German reunification, most prominent journalists, policymakers, and business leaders are westerners. Condescension sneaks in when they discuss why the east is so far to the right.

AR Legacy of Soviet domination — be patient.

2018 October 3


Theresa May

Our future is in our hands .. Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation .. We cannot outsource our conscience to the Kremlin.

Leadership is doing what you believe to be right, and having the courage and determination to see it through, and that's what I've been doing on Brexit.

AR An excellent speech.

Trump Sham

The New York Times

The young Donald Trump accepted a modest $1 million loan from his father Fred and through smarts, hard work, and sheer force of will parlayed that loan into a multibillion-dollar global empire.

This origin myth is a fiction. Donald received massive financial rewards from his father, including direct cash gifts and tens of millions in loans that never charged interest or had to be repaid. Fred even put properties and business ventures in the names of his children, who reaped the profits.

Altogether, Donald received upward of what in today's dollars would be $413 million. It seems liberties were taken with tax laws, including greatly understating the value of the family business, with Donald taking an active role in the effort. Tax experts see a pattern of deception.

For Trump, polishing his image has been vital to his success. But the American public has a right to some answers. Time for Trump to hand over his tax returns.

Putin inspires more confidence than Trump
The Atlantic

President Donald Trump is unpopular around the world. A new Pew survey of 26,000 people in 25 countries shows 7 in 10 people have no confidence in Trump. In Germany and France, 9 in 10 have no confidence in him. Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin all inspire more confidence globally than Trump.

A Second Referendum

Daniel Finkelstein

A second Brexit referendum will have to have Remain as an option. The other one will have to be whatever agreement (deal or no deal) the government comes back with.

If Theresa May has a deal, she can win votes of confidence in the Commons. She can threaten Labour that the UK might fall out of the EU chaotically and they will be to blame. Labour MPs will vote for a deal to avoid chaos. Jeremy Corbyn can only stop them by endorsing a second referendum.

A second referendum requires government time to legislate. At present, May is set against it. But if she secures a deal and parliament will not pass it, she has three choices: leaving the EU in chaos, having a general election, or having another referendum.

AR Go on, Theresa, do it.

2018 October 2

Operation Arse

The Guardian

Scottish Conservatives have begun "Operation Arse" to persuade their MPs to vote against Boris Johnson in any forthcoming leadership contest. They also want to convince party members that he would be an electoral disaster.

At conference, Johnson called on his fellow Brexiteers to pile pressure on the prime minister to "chuck Chequers" and revert to her original Lancaster House proposals: "If we bottle Brexit now, believe me, the people of this country will find it hard to forgive. If we get it wrong, if we proceed with this undemocratic solution, if we remain half-in half-out, we will protract this toxic tedious business .. This is not what we voted for. This is an outrage."

The Europe Virus

Rachel Sylvester

As Conservatives seem to embrace their identity as the party of Brexit, their main conference announcements include a Festival of Brexit Britain and a crackdown on immigration. The audience booed the Financial Times for its pro-European views. A former cabinet minister: "The Europe virus has infected the entire political body of the Conservative party and we are in grave danger of being seen by the public as completely bonkers."

Crass and Inflammatory

Oliver Kamm

UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is fully the equal of his predecessor in diplomatic ineptitude: "The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison the desire to get out won't diminish, it will grow and we won't be the only prisoner that will want to escape."

The EU is a voluntary union of democratic nations, whose pioneers regarded European integration as a means of creating peace. European policymakers underwent danger to life and liberty in order to undermine communism. European Commission president Donald Tusk was an organiser for the Solidarity free trade union movement in Poland.

No EU government wants to punish Britain for wishing to leave. But EU policymakers are unanimous that a Brexit agreement cannot confer on Britain more favourable terms than it enjoys as a member of the EU. The EU has made this clear from the outset.

Nobel Prize for Physics

Natalie Wolchover

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for advances in laser physics to: Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou, and Donna Strickland.

Ashkin developed optical tweezers, which use lasers to trap and control objects as small as individual atoms. His key innovation was discovering that a single laser beam can trap an object in 3D by nudging it in the beam direction to hold it near the focal point.

Mourou developed a way to create extremely short laser pulses by chirped pulse amplification. The method is used in corrective eye surgeries and and have a vast panoply of other uses.

Strickland worked with Mourou on the trick for amplifying a laser pulse by chirping it before amplification and then recompressing it again. She is the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics since 1963.

Nobel Prize for Cancer Immunotherapy


The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine today goes to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo. The pair worked independently on molecular pathways that normally inhibit the immune system. Both are credited with launching cancer immunotherapy into a new era.

Allison studied protein CTLA-4, which suppresses immune responses by T cells. He showed turning off CTLA-4 is effective in humans against melanoma.

Honjo studied protein PD-1, which suppresses T cells in a different way. He showed blocking PD-1 with antibodies can cure several types of cancer.

Today, immune checkpoint therapies based on PD-1 and CTLA-4 stand alongside surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy as cancer treatments.

Screw Spacetime

New Scientist

Powerful laser beams exert a gravitational effect that warps spacetime around them. Photons have energy, hence gravity, and a laser beam has a cylindrical gravitational field around it. Fabienne Schneiter says a spinning laser beam drags the spacetime around it into a corkscrew swirl in which time is slowed down, but the change is too tiny to detect.

AR A big laser drill could bore holes in time!

2018 October 1

Brexit Disaster Warning

Michael Stürmer

Britain after Brexit could become a horror scenario, a downward spiral of impoverishment and political upheavals with effects far beyond the British Isles.

The problem of how to manage the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is still unsolved. Today, thanks to the EU, there is no problem. But a breakup would rip open old wounds and awaken ghosts.

The UK is drifting helplessly toward a major crisis. The 2016 referendum seemed like an opinion poll to most Britons, hardly a matter of life and death.

The House of Commons is supposed to be in control. Once voters decide an issue, MPs take that as an instruction to the governing party in parliament. Whatever separates MPs, parliamentary elitism prevents them from voting on key issues. A constitution emerges by trial and error.

One can admire the serenity with which the British regard separation from continental Europe. In fact, no one is at the controls. The prime minister presented a sketch for a soft landing at Chequers, which could be a basis for a deal with the EU but is hated by the diehards for that very reason.

A way out in dissolution of parliament and new elections is barred because the issue splits the main parties. So all that remains is to send the result so far back to the people in a new referendum. But there is no time for that — just six months — unless London and Brussels agree to stop the clock.

The drama cannot leave the Federal Republic cold. Germany has a vital interest in the European project. A no deal Brexit could be the beginning of the end.

Cell Jams Shape Embryos

Jordana Cepelewicz

New work shows how a fish embryo develops a long axis for its body. The process is governed by a jamming transition: At the tip of what becomes the tail, cells can flow freely as in a fluid, but closer to the head, they jam together and behave more like a solid.

Materials such as glasses, colloids, and foams get trapped in a state away from equilibrium, neither fully solid nor fluid, so they can flow like fluids or jam up as in a solid.

Researchers injected a droplet of ferromagnetic fluid between the embryo cells and measured its shape as the fish developed to determine the strength of the forces the cells applied against one another. They changed a magnetic field on the droplet to measure the yield stress of the tissue.

Toward the tail end of the embryo, the yield stress was lower than the active cellular forces, and there was more space between the cells, allowing them to move and locally soften the tissue. Closer to the head, the gaps between cells closed off and the yield stresses increased, and the tissue behaved like soap suds or beer froth.

Cells use such phase transitions a lot. Biologists expect to see them in the formation of organs and in cancers.

Brexit Flight

Brexit flight: Spitfire and Hurricane fly over Daring-class destroyer, Bournemouth, September 1

BoJo vs May

Sir Alan Duncan says BoJo
aims to be Britain's Trump

Trump agrees to open
FBI investigation into
accusations against

Kavanaugh, Blasey
The Times/Pool
Kavanaugh, Blasey


2018 September 30

Theresa May Interview

The Sunday Times

On the Conservative conference that starts today:
TM "Conference will look different. You will see a lot more younger people."

On her future as leader:
TM "As I continue to say to people, what I'm doing as prime minister is not about me and my future .. the debate shouldn't be about me, the debate should be about the future of the country."

On the future of the country:
TM "There's a long-term job to do .. we're at a very important and historic moment for the UK. There are real opportunities for the UK outside the European Union."

On a nationwide festival to start in January 2022:
TM "We want to .. celebrate our nation's diversity and talent, and mark this moment of national renewal with a once-in-a-generation celebration."

On the Conservative party:
TM "We're the party that always puts country first and puts the national interest first."

On promoting aspiration:
TM "It comes down to that sense that I've always had of us being a party that wants to ensure that opportunity is there for people to be their best."

On what she has learnt about herself:
TM "I don't really ask myself that question. It's for others who perhaps work with me to comment."

On whether she is better at her job than she was two years ago:
TM "I don't know. I mean, I just .. I suppose I don't .. Again, you see, I just don't think about it in those terms. It is just genuinely that I don't sort of approach things in that sort of way."

On work-life balance:
TM "I try to keep fit .. I try to keep an element of normality in my life."

Boris Johnson Interview

The Sunday Times

On Theresa May:
BJ "The prime minister said she is going to serve for as long as her party wants her, and I certainly think she should."

On the Chequers Brexit plan:
BJ "There will be economic and political damage to the UK .. It surrenders control."

On the plan he backed last December for a Northern Ireland backstop:
BJ "I remember .. being absolutely reassured that this was just a form of words that was necessary to float the negotiations off the rocks."

On his encouraging May back to the path of righteousness:
BJ "I am like a loyal and faithful Labrador that is relentlessly returning to her an object that she has mistakenly chucked away."

On accusations that he is playing politics with Brexit:
BJ "Unlike the prime minister, I campaigned for Brexit .. I believe in it, I think it's the right thing for our country and I think that what is happening now is alas not what people were promised in 2016."

On how to respond to Labour calls for socialism with regulation and market meddling:
BJ "I think we need to make the case for markets .. I believe that the best way to pay for great public services is to have a strong market economy .. we should be proud of being Conservatives."

On the domestic agenda:
BJ "For me, Brexit should be part of a really self-confident and glorious campaign to revitalise the UK economy, invest in infrastructure, invest in housing, invest in skills for young people."

On his support for a bridge between Great Britain and Ireland:
BJ "What we need to do is build a bridge between our islands .. There is so much more we can do."

On the claim by Sir Alan Duncan that he wants to be Britain's Donald Trump:
BJ "That is total cobblers .. total balls, total utter balls."

2018 September 29

BoJo Brexit Plan

Jason Beattie

Boris Johnson calls on the prime minister to chuck her Chequers plan and replace it will a "Super Canada" deal.

BJ "The .. euro .. consigned millions of young people to the misery of unemployment across the Mediterranean .."
 The economies of Greece, Spain, and Italy have struggled, not because of the euro but because of the financial crash. All these countries are now on the road to recovery.

BJ "The .. one size fits all EU model of regulation .. has probably cost about 7% of GDP, .. the EU is a zone of low growth and low innovation, and .. the EU institutions themselves are colossal and extravagant wasters of taxpayers' money."
 The EU economy grew by 2.1% in 2018 Q2. In the UK it grew by 0.4%. The EU contains 28 countries representing 510 million people. The EU Commission employs 33,000 people.

BJ "It was a further symptom of the utter lack of conviction .. that we have effectively agreed to pay £40 billion as an exit fee without any assurances as to the future relationship."
 Britain is legally obliged to pay the divorce bill. If it walks away without paying for outstanding commitments it will be seen as an untrustworthy partner for future trade deals.

BJ "But the single greatest failing has been the .. delay in setting out a vision for what Brexit is."
 Johnson was a cabinet minister until two months ago.

BJ "The net result of two years' negotiation has been to guarantee EU citizens' rights .. to pay over £40 billion for nothing in return; and to negotiate a transition period by which the UK would effectively remain in the EU for another two years .."
 Both the EU and the UK recognise a transition period is essential if trade and goods are continue to flow smoothly.

BJ "If we go ahead with Chequers, we will be exposing the entire UK economy to regulations .. designed .. to make life difficult for UK entrepreneurs and innovators."
 Johnson is hitting out at regulations such as workers' rights and environmental protections.

BJ "Indeed .. the customs aspects of Chequers could only work if Britain drops all pretence of an independent trade policy .."
 Johnson thinks striking independent trade deals will compensate for the loss of access to the single market and the customs union. Trade deals with America, China, India, Australia, the Gulf, and ASEAN would add at most 0.6% to GDP in the long run. This will not compensate for the 5% loss of growth caused by leaving the EU.

BJ "That is why the heart of the new relationship should not be Chequers, but a free trade agreement at least as deep as the one the EU has recently concluded with Canada."
 The EU trade deal with Canada took seven years to complete. A Canada-style deal would leave checks at borders in place to ensure products meet EU standards. Johnson's proposal includes an extensive agreement on services. The EU is unlikely to agree to this.

BJ "The UK .. accepts that the EU will insist on ensuring the integrity of the single market .. but .. they can be carried out away from the border .."
 This is Johnson's solution to the Irish border issue. It relies on the EU trusting a non-member state to carry out customs checks and relies on untested technology.

BJ "First, chuck Chequers .. Then, go back to our EU friends and tell them that the .. Irish backstop arrangement .. is .. no longer acceptable to this country."
 Johnson wants to rip up the whole Brexit timetable.

BJ "The world is watching the UK, and it would be fair to say that our audience has been mystified and dismayed. Our partners around the world want us to take advantage of Brexit."
 The world is mystified and dismayed by the UK, period.

2018 September 28

Brett Kavanaugh vs Christine Blasey Ford

The New York Times

Professor Christine Blasey Ford was calm and dignified. US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent. She was eager to respond fully to every questioner, he was openly contemptuous of several senators and at some points evasive.

Blasey said that when she was 15 she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, then 17 and a student at a nearby high school. She said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, both very drunk, locked her in an upstairs room at a party, where Kavanaugh jumped on top of her, groped her, tried to remove her clothes, and put his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming.

Kavanaugh spent more than half an hour raging against Senate Democrats for "totally and permanently" destroying his name, his career, his family, his life. It was evidence of an unsettling temperament in a man trying to persuade the nation of his judicial demeanor.

Kavanaugh gave misleading answers to some questions. He gave coy answers when pressed about a sexual innuendo in his high-school yearbook. He dodged a number of times when senators asked him about his drinking habits and denied ever blacking out from too much drinking.

Dr Blasey described in detail what she did remember and was honest about what she didn't. She is a psychologist and explained precisely how a trauma gets burned into the brain and stays there long after other memories fade away. She is in hiding now with her family in face of death threats.

The Republican senators competed with each other to make the most ferocious denunciation of their Democratic colleagues and the most heartfelt declaration of sympathy for Kavanaugh and his bid to get a lifetime seat on America's highest court.

Mark Judge is the key witness in Blasey's allegation. He says he doesn't recall the party or an assault. But he hasn't faced live questioning. Kavanaugh and Judge are both known as heavy drinkers.

AR Trump backs K.

Brexit Is Unnegotiable

Jolyon Howorth

The British people were misled by the Brexiteers. Voters did not know the difference between a hard or a soft Brexit, or the relative merits and demerits of the EEA model or the Canada model or the no deal model, or any model. They were sold a myth.

All serious studies on the impact of Brexit show the UK will be worse off after the UK leaves than it was before. The Chequers plan has been rejected by the EU27. If it will not work for the EU, it will not work. The onus is on the UK to set out a new plan.

Theresa May should admit the truth in an address to the British people. Brexit was a mistake. There is no positive outcome that meets the red lines of the two parties. Brexit was a bad idea.

Call A Timeout

Philip Stephens

Britain is not ready for Brexit. It needs a timeout period during which it remains in the single market and customs union while its politicians reconsider the options:
Stop the clock on the Article 50 negotiations
Extend the planned transition period
Join the EEA for a few years

All three leave Britain worse off than now. Such is the reality of Brexit.

A Second EU Referendum

James Blitz

Speculation is growing about whether the UK might hold a second referendum on leaving the EU.
If Theresa May secures a deal in Brussels and parliament approves it, Britain will leave the EU.
If May strikes a deal in Brussels but loses the Commons vote, Labour will try to force an election.
    This could trigger a political crisis.

A second referendum may be the way forward.
The question for the public:
If May gets a deal, whether to back it or stay in the EU
If May fails to get a deal, whether to go for no deal Brexit or stay in the EU
Or a 3-way preference vote: May's final deal, a no deal Brexit, or stay in the EU

The UK would have to seek an extension of the Article 50 process.
A referendum would need to be held before May 2019.

2018 September 27

Happy Dog

The Times

US defence secretary and former four-star Marine Corps commander James Mattis addressed hundreds of military cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington: "If you watch the news you can start wondering what's going on in this country .. We all know our country is having a tough time right now. I am so happy to be out of Washington DC right now I could cry."

President Trump has stopped calling Mattis by his nickname "Mad Dog" and now refers to him as "Moderate Dog".

2018 September 26

Laughing Stock

Michael H Fuchs

For the rest of the world, US president Donald Trump is a laughing stock, not a leader. That was the takeaway from Trump's speech to the UN general assembly.

AR No joke.

NV diamond probe

Quantum Atmospheres

Marcus Woo

Frank Wilczek and Qing-Dong Jiang propose to discover the hidden properties of an ordinary material by probing its surrounding quantum atmosphere, which they say has an an effect like a magnetic field on anything that crosses into it. A diamond probe with nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers, where some of the C atoms are swapped out for N atoms and where the spot adjacent to the N is empty, might sense it.

People's Vote

Michal Iwanowski
Go Home, Polish
This summer, Michal Iwanowski
walked from his house in Wales
to his home village in Poland.
Along the way, he kept a
photo diary of his journey:
"I feel utterly at home walking
in the landscape, wherever
that landscape is."




Universal Time

Julian Baggini

Time is linear, ordered into past, present, and future. Linear time fits in with an eschatological worldview in which all of human history is building up to a final judgment. This is the way of viewing time in the largely Christian west.

Time and space are theoretical abstractions in modern physics, but in human culture they are concrete realities. To understand time and space in oral philosophical traditions, we have to see them less as abstract mathematical concepts and more as living conceptions.

Western philosophy strives for a universality that glosses over differences of time and place. Refusal to accept practices and customs has bred intolerance for barbaric and unjust traditional practices. The universalist aspiration becomes insensitive to the different needs of different cultures.

Saying there are no universal truths is itself a universal claim about the nature of truth. But the universalist aspiration is rooted in the particular. Belief in progress is a relic of the Christian view of history.

AR Either we live in a universal narrative or we sink into incoherence.

2018 September 25



President Trump addressed the UN General Assembly: "America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governments, control, and domination .. We will never surrender America's sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy."

AR So WW3 = US versus Globorg?

Brexit Zinger

Martin Kettle

Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said one option must be a campaign for a public vote: "Nobody is ruling out remain as an option."

The response in the hall to that was immediate. First an instant volley of applause, but then, from deeper in the hall, and somehow also from somewhere deeper in the gut of the party conference, came the cheering, prolonged and surging, and then the standing ovation.

AR 1639 UCT: Labour delegates have overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Brexit motion saying holding a second referendum should be an option.

Britain and Greece

Gideon Rachman

The Brexit negotiations could fail. Both the EU and the UK are now talking seriously about the threat of no deal. Britain may be heading toward a traumatic experience that forces it into a fundamental reassessment.

The current mood of defiance in Britain recalls Greece after its referendum rejecting the terms of an EU bailout in 2015. Greek politicians misread the strength of their position and were humiliated when they had to accept the bailout.

British hubris suggests a failure to come to terms with the balance of power in these negotiations. As the Greeks discovered, it is what happens in the streets and the financial markets that really shows where power lies.

British determination to stand firm against the EU risks being undermined by the markets. The UK is less vulnerable to a financial panic, but British complaints about the EU may be no more effective than Greek complaints.


The Times

Boris Johnson, David Davis, and the ERG propose the IEA Plan A+ as a blueprint for a "clean" Brexit.

Plan A+ is close to the Canada plus proposal for Brexit and is based on a free trade agreement with the EU rather than a mechanism for regulatory alignment. It proposes a wholesale reorientation of the economy away from Europe and toward the United States and Asia.

Plan A+ calls for independent food standards, corporation tax cuts to compete with Asian economies, and an immediate start to trade talks with non-EU countries. It rules out any concession that would subject British businesses to EU regulations.

Hard Brexiteers see the plan as a bracing alternative to the Chequers plan and better than no deal.

2018 September 24

"A Fucking Liar"

The New York Times

President Trump considers it the duty of all administration officials to peddle his version of reality to protect his interests.

Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has been accused of ethical shiftiness and may have committed
     perjury in his push to add a question about citizenship status to the census form. On Friday, a
     federal judge called his credibility an issue.
 Secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen insisted that the administration did not have a
     policy of splitting apart migrant families even as she was aggressively enforcing and publicly
     defending that policy.
 Interior department secretary Ryan Zinke and top aides withheld data pointing to the benefits
     of protecting various national monuments while they played up the benefits of removing the
 White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders regularly misleads the American people on
     issues ranging from whether the president paid hush money to Stormy Daniels to less salacious

When the president signals that he regards honesty as a handicap, he drags the whole executive branch down to his level.

AR Bob Woodward's book Fear ends with these words:
       Trump had one overriding problem that [former US attorney and Trump lawyer John] Dowd knew
       but could not bring himself to say to the president: "You're a fucking liar."

King Trump

Jonathan Stevenson

President Donald Trump believes his authority is practically monarchical. His belligerent posturing toward Iran and North Korea and his cavalier disregard for legal procedure make many observers wonder if he will try to start a war.

Under Article I of the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. But Article II makes the president the commander-in-chief, and neither Korea nor Vietnam was a declared war.

Trump is a hawkish advocate of American dominance. He has little patience for constraints on presidential power and holds legal arguments in contempt. His decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran was clearly a way to weaken Iran and free the United States to attack its nuclear facilities.

Trump might start a war against North Korea without seeking congressional authorization. By appointing Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser, he has surrounded himself with hawks whose ideas mirror his own.

The lack of constraint was painfully evident in Trump's lopsided concessions to North Korea at the Singapore summit, his alienation of European allies at the NATO summit, his obsequiousness toward Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, and his recklessly improvised Iran policy.

There is growing concern in Congress that Trump might start an unauthorized war.


Clare Foges

No Chequers
No cherry picking
No to have cake and eat it

Brexiteers blame Theresa May for not squaring impossible circles. They blame Remainers and business elites for lacking patriotism. They blame the EU for acting in its own interests.

They must put up or shut up.

2018 September 23

ABC Conjecture Proof Flaw

Erica Klarreich

Peter Scholze and Jakob Stix have found a fundamental flaw within a 2012 series of four papers by Shinichi Mochizuki claiming to prove the abc conjecture in number theory. The proof was written in an impenetrable style over more than 500 pages.

Scholze and Stix say the reasoning near the end of the proof of Corollary 3.12 in the third paper is fundamentally flawed. The corollary is central to the proposed abc proof.

The ABC Conjecture
     Let a + b = c, where a, b, c are positive integers with no common prime factors.  Take all the
     primes that divide a or b or c and let p be the product of these primes.
     For any exponent n > 1, there are only finitely many abc triples such that c > pn.

Mochizuki approached the abc conjecture by translating it into one about an inequality involving elliptic curves, then to an inequality between the volumes of two sets. Corollary 3.12 "proves" the latter inequality.

Scholze and Stix say the proof involves putting the volumes of the two sets inside two copies of ℝ, which are then represented as part of a circle of six copies of ℝ, together with mappings between the copies.

Here things go wrong, say Scholze and Stix, recalling an Escher staircase that climbs up to below where it started. Skeptics of Mochizuki's abc proof may well consider this the end of the story.

AR See blog 2012 September 12.

2018 September 22

NASA Sat Tracks Earth Ice Melt

The Guardian

A new $1 billion NASA satellite will orbit over Earth's polar regions to measure the heights of ice sheets and the thickness of remaining sea ice.

NASA deputy project scientist for the ICESat-2 mission Tom Neumann: "With sea ice .. the thickness .. gives you some insight into why the area is changing the way it is."

ICESat-2 was launched last week and will start work in October.

Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite 2

The ICESat-2 mission has four science objectives:
Measure melting ice sheets and investigate how this effects sea level rise
Measure and investigate changes in the mass of ice sheets and glaciers
Estimate and study sea ice thickness
Measure the height of vegetation in forests and other ecosystems worldwide

ICESat-2 will collect data from a polar orbit at an altitude of 500 km. It carries an Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, ATLAS, to measure the travel times of laser pulses and calculate its height above the Earth's surface. ATLAS will make a detailed and precise picture of the heights of the planet's ice, vegetation, land surface, water, and clouds from orbit.

ATLAS carries 2 green (532 nm) lasers, one primary and one backup, firing pulses at a frequency of 10 kHz. The laser output is split into 3 pairs of pulsed beams. Each pulse contains about 20 trillion photons, about 10 of which return to the detector.

Returning photons from the 6 beams are focused on 6 fiber optic cables in the focal plane of a beryllium telescope 80 cm in diameter. From those fibers, the photons pass through a series of filters to prevent reflected sunlight from swamping the detectors.

A reference system steers the beams and takes measurements every 70 cm along the ground path. The detector collects data for each returned photon with a time-of-flight precision of 800 ps and sends it to a system that beams it down to mission control.

Members of the public can run an app on the data to provide new knowledge for use in resource management and policy making.

2018 September 21


The Times

Theresa May is battling to salvage her Brexit strategy and facing a fresh Tory revolt after being humiliated by European leaders yesterday.

The martyrdom of St Theresa: Rubbing Salzburg into the Brexit wound

Theresa May: I will not overturn Brexit

EU Says No

Financial Times

The EU27 leaders face issues far bigger than Brexit. But for UK prime minister Theresa May, her Chequers Brexit plan was all that mattered. When European Council president Donald Tusk stated flatly that it "would not work" and would undermine the single market, she was undone.

Throughout the Brexit debate, too much attention has been paid to the wants and whims of the Conservatives. Other European countries face more urgent challenges. The best May can hope for now is a blind Brexit covering only the process of withdrawal. All the rest will be fudged.

This is wholly unsatisfactory. It merely pushes vital questions about the future UK-EU relationship into the transition period. The cliff edge moves from March 2019 to December 2020. There is no achievable relationship for the UK that is better than the present EU membership.

AR The UK has played no constructive part in any of the really important EU debates for several years. Instead, only complaints and selfish calls for special treatment have emerged from Westminster. Brits are still EU citizens — time to act the part.


Eye of the Tiger

Trump Brexit

People's Vote

"There is a unanimous, or
almost unanimous .. point
of view .. that we would
like .. that the UK has
another referendum."
Malta PM Joseph Muscat,
Salzburg, 0825 UCT

My photos

Tight Brits, Loose UK

4 in 10 Brits think multi-
culturalism has undermined
British culture and migrants
are not integrating. Only
1 in 7 are satisfied with
government handling
of immigration.



TV series, Season 1
AR Watched it this week.
Good Anglo-German

Burn the Bra
"People have often
been offended by the sight
of my nipples poking out ..
I hope one day women's
chests .. won't be con-
sidered inappropriate."
Erin Saxcoburg



2018 September 20

Brexit Mauling

The Guardian, 1431 UCT

UK prime minister Theresa May tried to downplay unexpectedly strong criticism by other EU leaders of her Chequers plan: "I have always said these negotiations were going to be tough, and at various stages of these negotiations tactics would be used."

European council president Donald Tusk warned of a breakdown in the Brexit talks unless Theresa May delivers a solution for the Irish border by October.

French president Emmanuel Macron: "Brexit is the choice of the British people pushed by those who predicted easy solutions .. Those people are liars."

Brexit Deal Far Away

The Times

At a gathering of EU leaders in Salzburg, UK prime minister Theresa May said the UK will leave the EU on 29 March next year and "the onus is now on all of us to get this deal done" by November.

European Council president Donald Tusk described the Chequers proposal as a "positive evolution" that showed a "will to minimise negative effects of Brexit" but added the "proposals need to be reworked or further negotiated" before they are acceptable.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Brussels and Britain were "far away" from a deal.

What Went Wrong?

Catherine Barnard

"As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us."
Theresa May, 2016

A country that prided itself on having a good civil service, a history of pragmatism, and huge experience in international relations botched its approach to Brexit. May let a small team of close advisers dictate the way ahead. She set red lines on migration, sovereignty, and the administration of justice. She must come out of the bunker.

No Deal Brexit

Peter Müller, Jörg Schindler

Saturday, March 30, 2019 — British radio stations report traffic jams at the ferry docks of Dover and Folkstone. All flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and other airports to continental Europe are canceled.

Monday — The pound takes a nosedive, bringing the share prices of British companies down with it. Shoppers begin emptying supermarket shelves. Gas stations start to run out of gasoline. Cornwall and Scotland declare states of emergency.

A week later — Hospitals run out of vital medications. Reports of theft and looting emerge. Police chiefs call for military backup. In London, government ministers are fighting each other.

AR Let the people vote against this scenario.

2018 September 19

Fort Trump


Polish president Andrzej Duda urges US president Donald Trump to deploy more US troops and military equipment to Poland, perhaps to a permanent military base named Fort Trump.

USAF "needs more firepower"

The US Air Force wants to add more bombers, fighters, tankers and other front-line units by 2030 to confront rising threats from China and Russia. Officials call for a nearly 25% increase in operational squadrons in the next 12 years.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson: "The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking us to do. We have 312 operational squadrons today. The Air Force we need has 386 operational squadrons by 2030."

The US National Defense Strategy calls China and Russia the central challenge facing the US military: "Interstate strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security."

Quantum Contradiction?

Anil Ananthaswamy

Quantum theory explains the behavior of microscopic things like electrons and atoms. In practice, it is hard to observe quantum behavior in large objects without their fragile quantum state collapsing, but in principle the theory still applies.

Daniela Frauchiger and Renato Renner came up with a thought experiment that implies a contradiction.

Amy tosses a coin and uses the result to set the spin of a particle: heads, spin down; tails, spin up. Amy then sends the particle to Brian, who measures the spin. If Brian finds spin up, he knows Amy got tails, else she got heads. The pair repeat this experiment over and over.

Andy uses quantum theory to model Amy and her entire lab. Andy checks whether Amy and her lab are in a superposition of two states. The result is Yes or No. Bella applies quantum theory to Brian and his lab in the same way.

The spin of the particle as measured by Brian is entangled with the outcome of Amy's coin toss: If Andy gets Yes for a coin toss, he can say something about the spin of the particle Brian saw. If Bella gets Yes for a coin toss, she can say something about whether Amy saw heads or tails.

Theory implies that in a small minority of cases, Andy can get Yes and know Brian saw spin down while Bella can get Yes and know Amy saw tails. The contradiction shows an assumption in the theoretical analysis must be wrong.

AR How can Andy and Bella not entangle with the (Amy + lab) and (Brian + lab) states?

2018 September 18

Stop Brexit

Andrew Adonis

The fatal flaw of Brexit is the act of putting the UK outside the EU and its future. No viable Brexit plan is on offer or in sight. So stop it.

Theresa May should announce that the government's Brexit deal will be put to a referendum after it comes to parliament at the end of the year, giving the people the choice not to proceed and instead to stay in the EU. The people should make the final decision on Brexit.

Brexit will only be stopped if members of parliament show courage and leadership. If we end up in a blind Brexit without a credible plan for our national future, we and our children will pay a steadily greater price until we once again take our place in the EU.

2018 September 17

Science of Brexit and Trump

Michele Gelfand

My research across hundreds of communities suggests that the fundamental driver of difference is cultural. Our behavior depends a lot on whether the culture we live in is tight or loose.

Norms are rules for acceptable behavior that we take for granted. As children we learn hundreds of them. Social norms are the glue that holds groups together and give us our identity.

Tight cultures have strong norms and little tolerance for deviance, while loose cultures are the opposite. The United States is a relatively loose culture: Every day a person can witness a slew of casual norm violations, from littering to jaywalking to arguing loudly on the street. In Singapore, gum is banned, streets are pristine, and jaywalkers are rare. Japan puts huge emphasis on punctuality.

Tight cultures as diverse as Sparta and Singapore face a high degree of threat. Strong norms are needed to help them survive. Loose cultures like classical Athens or modern New Zealand enjoy the luxury of facing fewer threats. They can explore new ideas, accept newcomers, and tolerate a wide range of behavior.

Tight and loose contrasts also appear within countries. US states with histories punctuated by high threat, including more natural disasters, higher pathogen prevalence and food scarcity, are much tighter than those that enjoyed relative safety. This helps explain why those on low incomes consistently prefer strong rules and leaders.

Tight groups have lower crime, tend to be cleaner and more coordinated, and have fewer problems with obesity, debt, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Loose groups are more disorganized but they excel at openness, tolerance, creativity, and flexibility. Tight groups are less innovative, more ethnocentric, and more resistant to new ideas.

Tight−loose differences can explain global patterns of conflict, revolution, terrorism, and populism. As threats emerge, groups tighten. As they subside, groups loosen.

The strongest Trump supporters believe their country is threatened. They feel their culture is too loose and they want tighter rules and a stricter leader. Fearful voters also drove the Brexit decision and moves toward the right in France, Poland, Russia, the Philippines, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Italy.

2018 September 16

Brexit: Into Limbo

Nick Clegg

The talks between the UK and the EU are likely to reach agreement on how to leave the EU but not on how to what to do next. The UK government has a hopelessly fudged Chequers plan, while Brexiteers claim no deal would be a manageable outcome. Under either scenario, once a Brexit plan is agreed, Britain will be floating outside the EU without any legally agreed future.

The only legally binding component of any deal will be related to the arrangements for withdrawal, while the framework for the future relationship will be subject to a political declaration. UK prime minister Theresa May knew this from the outset. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has been asked to arrange for an orderly and legally sound departure of the UK from the EU.

The British political and media establishment underestimates the centrality of law to the EU. British decision makers assume that fudge and muddle will do the trick. But the EU has hard legal contours that resist the nudge and wink dealmaking of Westminster tea rooms.

French president Emmanuel Macron recently warned against the dangers of a blind Brexit. He is right to be worried. MPs still have time to give the UK more time to choose a better future.

Brexit: Our Verdict

The Observer

Britain stands on the brink of a momentous decision. Our politicians are no closer to reaching a consensus on a satisfactory form of leaving the EU than they were in 2016. This leaves the country in a dangerous political vacuum.

By itself, the 2016 referendum did not afford sufficient democratic legitimacy for taking Britain out of the EU, come what may and however bad the terms. It gave the prime minister a mandate to negotiate the best possible exit terms and bring them back for approval. It was not a blank cheque for her to take Britain out of Europe on any terms.

The parliamentary vote on offer does not provide sufficient scrutiny for the biggest decision Britain has faced in decades. MPs will only get a vote for or against the deal. If they vote against, Britain will crash out.

Theresa May has not resolved the trade-off between border control and market access that the EU insistence that we cannot cherrypick from its four single market freedoms implies. She not been clear that if Britain wants to opt out of free movement of people, there will be significant costs. Labour has not only failed to challenge her chicanery, it has helped sustain it.

The only way out of this democratic conundrum is for MPs to force the government to put its deal to the electorate. Voters must be offered the option to accept the deal or to seek to remain in the EU on our current terms. The idea that the 2016 vote is binding is preposterous.

No significant political constituency advocates crashing out with no deal. Crashing out with no deal would be economically calamitous. This scenario should only be put to the public vote if May fails to secure a deal.

Holding another referendum is risky. Remainers would need to make a positive case for EU membership. Leavers would probably seek to whip up a backlash against a betrayal of the people.

For two years, Britain has been failed by its political class on the most important question the country has faced in decades. We must take the chance to deliver our verdict on the terms of departure. We must have a referendum on the deal.

Brexit: Take Back Control

Sadiq Khan

I campaigned for the UK to remain. I said all along that any form of Brexit would result in fewer jobs, less prosperity, and a reduced role for Britain on the world stage.

But the will of the British people was to leave the EU. I respect that and wanted us to make the best of the situation. I worked closely with the Brexit secretary and other cabinet members to push for the best possible deal.

Theresa May has failed to negotiate a Brexit position with her own party, let alone agree a deal with the EU. At every stage, her government has looked unprepared and out of its depth. With time rapidly running out, we are left with a bad deal or no deal.

The people must get a final say. Take this crucial issue out of the hands of the politicians and return it to the people, so that they can take back control.

AR The 2016 referendum was a single binary choice made by some 33 million people — about 4 MB: a single snapshot taken in thick fog over two years ago. That should justify jumping off a cliff?

The Phoney Victory

Peter Hitchens

Sir Winston Churchill saved Britain and probably the world when he rightly refused to parley with Hitler in 1940. But Churchill made many errors:

He sealed the fate of the new British battleship HMS Prince of Wales in December 1941 by sending it and another great ship on a futile mission to Singapore, where Japanese aircraft sank them both. In February 1942, British and Australian forces surrendered at Singapore and 85,000 men went into ghastly captivity. This was the greatest single defeat of British arms in history and caused a permanent collapse in British power and reputation in the East.

He was obsessed with fighting in and around the Mediterranean at the cost of ships and men to fight U-boats. He committed forces to the defence of British interests in Egypt when the German threat to the oilfields of Iraq and Iran came through the USSR. In August 1940, he ordered a third of his remaining tanks to Egypt. In early 1941, he intervened in Greece unnecessarily, and was forced into headlong evacuations from both Greece and Crete. German air power destroyed British forces in Crete. RAF fighters were unavailable because Britain was building bombers.

He threw huge numbers of men and machines into the RAF night bombing offensive against German civilians and their homes with morally and materially debatable effect. During the entire war, the RAF only destroyed some 5% of German housing. In 1942, the RAF killed two Germans for every bomber lost, and most of the bombs missed their targets completely. He said the RAF attacks advanced the war effort by diverting German aircraft and artillery from the Eastern Front, but later US precision bombing showed that an RAF bomber offensive against military and economic targets would have done more to win the war.

AR Peter's late brother Christopher was an iconoclast too.

2018 September 15

A People's Vote

Matthew Parris

Revolution is in the air. Another vote on Europe is moving fast from the highly unlikely to the distinctly possible.

There is little enthusiasm in parliament for the Chequers plan, but it may be the only available basis for a deal. Theresa May stands a fair chance of getting her deal through parliament later this year, though a dozen ERG dissenters could sink it.

Faced with no deal, or a draft deal defeated in the Commons, or a lost free vote on the deal, May could avoid resignation by proposing a referendum. If she resigned, demands for a general election could be countered by a new leader pledging a referendum. A referendum would break the constitutional logjam.

The current deadline for negotiating the UK departure from the EU would have to be extended. The Electoral Commission would want a few months for the referendum campaign. I expect our EU partners would agree to an extension for this purpose.

The commission would also recommend a binary question. No deal is not an option: With no clarity on what the ERG proposes, it cannot be put to a vote. In the absence of any other workable proposal, the only alternative to a Chequers-based deal is to remain in the EU.

AR Glad to hear it.

2018 September 14

Weak Pound Bad

Chris Giles

In 1948, £1 sterling bought just over $4 and DM 13.4. Today it buys only $1.30 and the equivalent of DM 2.20.

Since 1948, only Canada had a weaker growth of GDP per head among the G7 economies. Since the advent of the euro in 1999, UK living standards have improved more slowly than the average EZ member.

The 25% sterling depreciation from late 2007 to early 2009 failed to save Britain from a slump. The 20% reduction in the value of the pound since late 2015 has been even more disappointing. Net trade has contributed nothing to growth since the Brexit referendum.

Since 2008, the great majority of Britons have become poorer. Only Mexico and Greece have seen weaker growth of real average wages over the past decade among countries in the OECD.

Companies overwhelmingly invoice their exports and imports in a dominant currency. For the UK, that means the US dollar and the euro. Sterling has much less effect on competitiveness and trade volumes than in the past.

Seeking to devalue sterling further makes no sense.

AR The UK should have gone the EZ way in 1999.

2018 September 13

Academic Publishing

George Monbiot

Robert Maxwell developed a ruthless and profitable business model. Academic journals are natural monopolies and can charge high fees for the transmission of knowledge. Scientists write the articles, review them, and edit the journals for free. Researchers read the paywalled articles in commercial journals.

Most scientific research is carried out at public expense in universities. This public asset is captured, packaged, and sold back to the public for phenomenal fees. Those who pay most are publicly funded libraries. Taxpayers pay first for the research, then to see the work they have sponsored.

A consortium of European funders has taken on the problem with Plan S: From 2020, any research they sponsor will no longer be locked up. Researchers they fund must publish in open-access journals. Plan S is the beginning of the end for the Maxwell model.

AR The paywalls have been a feature ever since I worked at Springer and helped pioneer web publishing. Our profits were sinking as paper went out of fashion. We survived by charging fees for promoting excellence in scientific research.

2018 September 12

State of the Union

Jean-Claude Juncker

Peace: The European Union has brought peace to the continent.

Economy: Europe has ridden out the economic crisis and is growing consistently.

Trade: Europe stands for multinationalism and will remain an open continent.

Immigration: Europe will never become a fortress turning its back on the world.

Standards: Europe should continue to set global standards in new technology.

Brexit: The EU respects but regrets the UK decision and asks the British government to
     understand that outside the union it cannot enjoy the same privileges as within. Europe will
     always show solidarity with Ireland over the border issue with the UK. The UK will always be
     a close partner in political, economic, and security terms.

Euro: The euro has been a success but the project needs to be taken further.

Foreign policy: EU counties should no longer be able to veto EU foreign policy.

The far right: Say no to unhealthy nationalism and yes to enlightened patriotism.

Africa: Europe must stop seeing its relation to Africa as donor to recipient.

Time: Countries should decide on changing their clocks between summer and winter.

Tax: Companies should pay taxes where they earn their profits.

Testing Cosmogenesis

Natalie Wolchover

Xingang Chen, Avi Loeb, and Zhong-Zhi Xianyu predict an oscillatory pattern in cosmic distribution of matter that could distinguish between inflation and alternative cosmogenesis scenarios.

Imagine taking a giant ice cream scoop to the sky and counting the galaxies per scoop. Do this many times to find how the number varies. With ever larger scoops, the amplitude of matter density variations should oscillate between more and less extreme.

CLX say the form of these oscillations show whether the peaks formed while the universe was expanding, as in inflation models, or while it was contracting, as in bounce models.

If the universe contracted before a bounce, ripples in the quantum fields would be squeezed. As it shrank smaller than ripples of a certain wavelength, any peaks would freeze into density variations. As it shrank further, ripples at ever smaller scales would freeze.

If instead the universe inflated, as it grew ever bigger it would fit quantum ripples with ever larger wavelengths. Density variations would be imprinted at each scale at the moment that ripples of that size were able to form.

Differences between the oscillations in the two scenarios can show which one occurred.

AR I don't see any structure surviving a bounce.

Sky map

IPAC/Caltech, by Thomas Jarrett
All-sky map of local universe derived from 2MASS Extended Source Catalog of more than 1.5 million galaxies:
Milky Way shown at center, other galaxies color-coded by distance

to Brexit:

200 days


Published today

Cixin Liu

"Wildly imaginative, really
interesting .. The scope
of it was immense."
Barack Obama


2018 September 11

Vostok 2018


Russia has kicked off what it says are its largest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union. At least 300,000 troops, 36,000 vehicles and 1,000 aircraft will take part in the Vostok 2018 exercises. They are joined by thousands of troops from China and Mongolia for a week of exercises in Russia's Eastern Military District, close to the country's borders with China and Mongolia.

The exercises coincide with the Russian-sponsored Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, where Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese premier Xi Jinping held a bilateral meeting. Trade between Russia and China increased 50% in H1 2018, with the total expected to reach $100 billion by the end of the year.

Alongside Putin, Xi said China and Russia will work together to maintain stability and peace in the world. Warmer ties between Xi and Putin have been exhaustively covered by domestic media in both countries. The Russia narrative is that China and Russia are part of a dynamic new world order.

Brexit: Deal By November?

The Times

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier says a Brexit deal is "possible" by November. Sterling rose more than 1% on the news.

Downing Street is to begin a drive to hammer home the message that Chequers is the only deal on the table. A No 10 source says a deal is "eminently doable" as Europeans see they cannot let negotiations collapse.

All depends on how generous EU27 leaders are to Theresa May in Austria on September 20.

Senior EU official: "If we are going to get the deal over the line then it is necessary to help May."

Brexit: Voters Switch Off

Rafael Behr

Boredom is the biggest barrier. Public opinion is never settled, but 60% of UK voters now agree with the statement: "I no longer care how or when we leave the EU, I just want it over and done with."

Negotiations in Brussels are not going well and time is short. To get a deal, the prime minister must make compromises that outrage hardliners.

People's Vote campaigners foresee a trilemma: There is a deal, MPs say it is a bad deal, no one has a better idea. An option to call the whole thing off then looks good.

People beyond Westminster who had no strong feelings about the EU before they were asked in 2016 have none now, except to get the question out of their lives.

The bottom line is simple. For leave: Just get on with it. For remain: Just stop it.

Brexit: ERG Plan Fails

Financial Times

Conservative Eurosceptic planned to publish a blueprint for the future UK relationship with the EU but it fell apart. Their 140-page draft plan was meant to show they had a detailed alternative.

European Research Group head Jacob Rees-Mogg says the full document will not be published: "The truth is that we reconsidered."

ERG members have different opinions. Some think it not a bad idea for the UK to join the EEA, others hate it. Some are relaxed about leaving without a deal and others think it mad.

The draft plan includes proposals for radical tax cuts to remodel the UK economy, creation of a UK nuclear missile shield, and an expeditionary force to defend the Falkland Islands.

2018 September 10

Our Human Future

Cixin Liu

The technology we have is still primitive. If aliens travel hundreds of light years to get here, the gap between our respective technologies would be about the same as that between humans and ants.

A glance over human history tells us that the rise and fall of a great many civilizations is the result of war. Consider what happens when a species meets a stronger, more intellectually developed competitor. Every year, thousands of species disappear because they ran up against humans.

If we receive a message from the stars, I think we should be cautious, rather than recklessly respond to the message and expose our location. Some people think if a species enjoys a high level of civilization, it is bound to maintain high moral standards. That's very naive.

We will continue to develop our civilization and expand not just on Earth, but also across the solar system, the galaxy, even the entire universe. But I'm absolutely pessimistic about the survival of the other species who currently share Earth with us. The development of human civilization will eventually force other living things to go extinct or become our food.

We can create an environment to sustain ourselves with technology, even if the ecosystem collapses. The new system could be on Earth or in space. Humans are selfish, and because of our innate selfishness, I'm very confident that we can overcome any amount of environmental destruction.

Even though we still have defined nations, the borderlines between nations, ethnicities, and religions are disappearing. Technology is improving communication and accelerating cultural exchange. The world will share the same set of values and become more united.

Science immensely expands the canvas for science fiction. I write science fiction because I'm fascinated by science.

Swedish Election Results

Jon Henley

Sweden faces political uncertainty after the election left the two main parliamentary blocs tied but well short of a majority.

In preliminary results, the governing Social Democrats finished first at 28.4% and the main opposition Moderate party slipped to 19.8%. With the centre-left bloc at 40.6% and the centre-right at 40.2%, the far-right Sweden Democrats won 17.6%, to give it 63 of the 349 seats in the Riksdag.

Social Democrat prime minister Stefan Löfven will not resign: "The Sweden Democrats can never, and will never, offer anything that will help society. They will only increase division and hate."

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson: "We will will have an immense influence over what happens .. Sweden needs breathing space. We need tight responsible immigration policies."

Nicholas Aylott

The Sweden Democrats have deprived either of the traditional blocs of a majority. Those blocs will try to find a stable governing solution.

The four parties of the centre-right, the Alliance parties, could take over power as soon as parliament reopens if they were prepared to make a deal with the Sweden Democrats. But the Centre and Liberal parties say they are not, and the Moderates, Christian Democrats, and Sweden Democrats together have too few votes.

If the left bloc ends up with just one more seat than the right bloc, the Centre Party says any Alliance government will need the consent of the left bloc. So the government would have the participation or support of the Social Democrats and maybe the Greens too.

I think either the Social Democrats will stay in power or we will end up with the Liberal or Centre parties accepting a Social Democrat prime minister.

2018 September 9

Swedish Exit From West?

The Sunday Times

Sweden holds a national election today. Polls put the Sweden Democrats, a right-wing anti-immigrant party with sympathies for Moscow, in second place.

Although not a NATO member, Sweden supports the alliance and its forces will take part in NATO war games with America and Britain in Norway next month.

Sir Antony Beevor: "The military are deeply worried that this pro-Russian party may be able to force the others into a decision to turn Sweden away from NATO."

AR We all need better relations with Moscow.

M3 amphibious rig

Luhai Wong
M3 amphibious rig

People's Vote



No British Exit From Germany

The Sunday Times

UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson will leave some British troops to remain in Germany to deter Russian aggression. The MoD will abandon plans to withdraw all forces from Germany by 2020.

More than 200 servicemen and 400 family members will stay in Germany, including an engineering regiment for river crossings, which deploys M3 amphibious vehicles jointly operated by the British Army and the Bundeswehr. The army will also retain its training area near Paderborn and its vehicle storage depot at Mönchengladbach.

AR Better to leave British assets near the front line than let them rot in the UK.

No Good Brexit

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt

Former foreign secretary Johnson:

Why are they bullying us? The reason is simple: Northern Ireland, and the insanity of the backstop. We have been so mad as to agree that if we can't find ways of producing frictionless trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, then Northern Ireland must remain in the customs union and the single market.

The Chequers plan keeps us subject to EU rules for goods, for food, in practice for trade, and much else besides, exposing UK business and entrepreneurs to potentially hostile regulation over which we have no control whatever. It means we are a vassal state. Either we must divide the UK or we must accept EU law forever.

It is time to scrap the backstop. Otherwise, we should tell our friends they won't get a penny.

Current foreign secretary Hunt:

The prime minister needs the flexibility and room to negotiate the best deal for Britain. Parliament will have the chance to debate and vote on any agreement. We should not rush to judgment on a deal that is still under negotiation.

Our plan will take Britain out of the single market and the customs union, end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and halt the payment of vast sums into the EU budget. It will end freedom of movement and withdraw from the common agricultural and common fisheries policies. Nobody else has a detailed plan that both delivers on the instruction of the British people and has a chance of succeeding in the negotiations.

We must not and will not ignore the will of the British people. This is the moment to back the prime minister.

AR Heed the people: Hold a new vote.

No Good War

Peter Hitchens

Many Brits think the second world war was a good war. The myth that it was glorious, and that it saved the world, is a muffler against the cold truth of economic failure and political weakness:

Britain sought a conflict with Germany, not Germany with Britain. Britain did not go to war to help Poland, or to save the Jews of Europe, but to assert itself as a great power.

Britain had no big interests in Poland, which was not a particularly democratic or free country. The British government believed it could teach Germany a lesson about the limits of power.

The industrial mass murder of Jews did not begin until 1942. Before the war, the persecution of Jews in Germany was obvious to the world, yet Britain did not even break off diplomatic relations.

Chamberlain was certain of war because he had decided to bring it about. His rearmament program was intended for imperial and national defence. Without it, Britain would have been sunk.

Britain did not stand alone against the Nazi menace after the fall of France. Britain had lost the war it declared. The prospect of a humiliating peace with Germany lingered until 1942.

The threat of German invasion was never a reality. Hitler made no big preparations for an invasion. German attacks on coastal convoys, military industries, and then cities were for show.

The Anglo-American alliance began only when Britain handed its wealth and supremacy to its former colony, offering America the chance to save the world.

British bombing killed German civilians deliberately. The policy did little damage to German war production and was wasteful of expensive aircraft and brave young aircrews.

Chamberlain and Daladier started a war which Stalin and Roosevelt finished. The war destroyed the Third Reich and created a new order in Europe. Britain and France failed in their aim.

The end of hostilities did not bring a new sunlit era of optimism in a ravaged continent. Victory led swiftly to an appeasement of Stalin at least as bad as the earlier appeasement of Hitler.

2018 September 8


Charlie Wood

William Hamilton struggled to find the math for describing 3D rotations. His solution was brilliant.

The real numbers on a 1D line form the first number system. The second system includes negative roots, called "imaginary" numbers. Imaginary numbers and real numbers form the 2D world of complex numbers.

Hamilton hoped to define a third number system. The problem was multiplication. In the complex plane, multiplication produces 2D rotations. But for multiplication in 3D, there was no opposing division that always gave meaningful answers.

Finally, Hamilton found his system in 4D space and named the new numbers quaternions. To describe 3D rotation, he set their real component to 0 and defined their 3 imaginary components as vectors. Rotating a 3D vector meant multiplying it by a pair of full 4D quaternions coding their direction and degree of rotation.

Everything you can do with real and complex numbers you can do with quaternions, except that order matters for multiplication: Quaternions do not commute. The quaternion describing a 2π turn only makes a half-turn in 4D space. Only a 4π turn brings the quaternion back to its initial state.

In quantum mechanics, a 2π turn rotates a boson to its initial state, but a fermion takes a 4π turn to return to its initial state. Enter spinors. Translating back and forth between groups of vectors and groups of spinors leads us to supersymmetry. A further generalization leads to the fourth and final number system: octonions.

Quaternion multiplication in action (31:50)

Prince Charles


Life 3.0
My review




BAF 2018
Bournemouth Air Festival

Sarrazin 2018


Many Things Need Doing

Prince Charles

I have always believed that living on a finite planet means we have to recognise that this puts certain constraints and limits on our human ambition in order to maintain the viability of the planet. The way we operate has to be in tune with the way nature and the universe works and not the way we think it ought to work.

I totally and utterly object to this extraordinary trend that somehow we must become part human, part machine. The more AI and robotics they want to introduce, the more people will rediscover the importance of the traditional crafts, of things crafted by humans and not by machines.

2018 September 7


China Daily

A British Royal Navy warship entered Chinese territorial waters around the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea on August 31. A British spokesman claimed HMS Albion was conducting a freedom of navigation operation.

Hundreds of thousands of commercial ships pass through the waterway each year transporting an estimated $5 trillion worth of goods. Not one has found its freedom of navigation compromised.

China and the UK had agreed to explore a possible free trade agreement after Brexit. To achieve that, the UK should refrain from being Washington's sharksucker in the South China Sea.

AR Nice put-down.


The Guardian

After HM Treasury minister John Glen was seen in Downing Street with a briefing document titled Operation Yellowhammer about planning for no deal Brexit, HMT chancellor Philip Hammond made a statement: "In no-deal circumstances we would have to refocus government priorities so that government was concentrated on the circumstances that we found ourselves."

AR Brexit-driven austerity?

2018 September 6


Stephen Collinson

If Bob Woodward is right, the United States and the world are in danger. There is an aggrieved and abusive Shakespearean king raging in the Oval Office. The president is viewed with contempt by those who serve him and open to ridicule by others who see his swagger as a front for inadequacy.

Woodward's revelations must raise questions about whether top officials owe the public an explanation. If key figures are really intervening regularly to avert national security disasters, should they not make their worries known to the American people and the Congress?

The president has already given every impression of wallowing in fury and resentment. With his inner circle of aides apparently dumping on him, he is likely to be even more brittle and alone.

Against Trump


President Trump is facing a test to his presidency. Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I am one of them.

Our first duty is to this country. The president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. We have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions until Trump is out of office.

The president is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making. Senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief's comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

On Russia, the president complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia. This isn't the work of the deep state. It's the work of the steady state.

Artificial Intelligence

Jim Al-Khalili

AI is more important than all other big issues facing humanity, including climate change, world poverty, terrorism, pandemic threats, and antimicrobial resistance. It will dominate what happens with all these other issues, for better or for worse.

There could be a public backlash against AI. This could result in the technology not being used to its full potential in public life. This would leave the technology to proliferate, uncontrolled and unregulated, in the hands of a few increasingly powerful private technology companies at the expense of jobs, equality, and transparency.

AI could add $15 trillion a year to the global economy by 2030, more than the current output of China and India combined. Many jobs will be enhanced by AI, many will disappear and many new and as yet unknown jobs will be created.

A significant government investment in skills and training is imperative. AI is going to transform our lives in the coming decades even more than the internet has over the last few decades. Let's make sure we are ready for it.

AR Singularity

2018 September 5

Reconstruct Finance

Martin Wolf

Since the global financial crisis, politicians and policymakers have tried to stabilise the financial system and restore demand. This prevented economic collapse and brought a weak recovery.

The crisis was a devastating failure of the free market. If those who believe in the market economy and liberal democracy do not come up with better policies, demagogues will sweep them away.

Reform UK Economy

Phillip Inman

The IPPR says the shareholder model of capitalism is outmoded. Without investment on automation and digital services, the UK is likely to face another decade of stagnant wages, rising household debts, and deteriorating infrastructure.

Proposed reforms:
Increase the minimum hourly wage to £10.20 in London and £8.75 elsewhere.
Pay workers on zero-hours contracts 20% above the minimum wage.
Draft a strategy to boost public investment to the G7 average of 3.5% of GDP.
Change company governance to define director duties and put workers on boards.
Raise corporation tax and tackle tax avoidance by multinationals.
Introduce a single income tax for all types of income.
Replace inheritance tax with a lifetime gift tax.
Write a new economic constitution for the UK.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady: "Working people have had enough of stagnating living standards and massive inequality .. A better deal for a working people is possible, and will allow us to build a stronger, fairer economy."

2018 September 4


Max Hastings

Net migration from the EU to the UK fell to 87,000 in the year to March, while net migration from outside the EU rose to 235,000 in the same period.

After Brexit, Britain may gain powers to exclude EU nationals. But the government will gain no new powers to reduce legal immigration from outside the EU. Expect a bitter reaction from voters who support Brexit in the belief that it will curb migration.

Uncontrolled immigration is a political and social disaster which has precipitated agitation across Europe. The outdated 1953 European Convention on Human Rights (nothing to do with the EU) makes it hard to exclude people we might wish to keep out, or to repatriate them once they get here.

I have heard no prominent Brexiteer propose a credible answer to the challenges posed by non-EU migration. A vast population movement from the south toward the north is likely to increase spectacularly during the decades ahead. No European government has a policy to address this.

Some migration is economically indispensable. But the UK population has increased by 7 million since 2000, 82% of it due to migration. England now stands second only to the Netherlands in European population density.

Brexit will not solve the problem of controlling migration. We cannot seal Fortress UK. Non-EU immigration will still exceed government targets after Brexit.

AR Brimming, full up.

The German Alternative

Gideon Rachman

A million refugees and migrants entered Germany in 2015. The official opposition in the German parliament is now the Alternative for Deutschland, a populist, anti-migrant party. In Chemnitz about a quarter of the population supports or sympathises with the AfD.

The rise of the AfD and the visible anger on the streets of Germany has contributed to a sense that an era is coming to a close. Angela Merkel is said to be exhausted and shaken by the hatred she encountered in eastern Germany during the last election.

Germany sees the EU as a bastion of liberal values. The entrance of nationalists and populists into government in Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Austria makes German nationalists part of a broader European backlash against liberal orthodoxy.

In Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orban champions a nationalism that puts anti-refugee sentiment at its heart: "In 1990, we saw Europe as the future. Now we are the future of Europe."

AR Full up, stuffed.

Brexit Misery

Rachel Sylvester

With only weeks to go before a deal must be agreed between the UK and the EU, Britain is facing its greatest political crisis in living memory.

The swing to Remain has been almost twice as great among female voters as male ones. More than 80% of women believe the whole process of leaving the EU has been a mess, 71% want a vote on the final deal, and 60% felt misled by claims made during the referendum campaign in 2016.

There is also a growing generational divide, with all age groups under 50 now saying they want to stay in the EU. As older Leavers die and younger Remainers become eligible to vote, the Leave majority is shrinking by a thousand a day and will disappear completely by the end of 2019.

Conservatives risk looking like the party of old white men. Parliament is deadlocked. A referendum on the final deal may be the only solution.

AR Only maybe?

2018 September 3

Ding Ding!

Boris Johnson

So it's ding ding! Seconds out! And we begin the final round of that international slug fest, the Brexit negotiations .. in this case, I am afraid, the inevitable outcome is a victory for the EU, with the UK lying flat on the canvas ..

[T]he reality is that in this negotiation the EU has so far taken every important trick. The UK has agreed to hand over £40 billion of taxpayers' money for two thirds of diddly squat.

In adopting the Chequers proposals, we have gone into battle with the white flag fluttering over our leading tank. If we continue on this basis we will throw away most of the advantages of Brexit ..

It is now clear that some in the UK Government never wanted solutions .. For every problem, there is a potential solution.

AR Boris offers no solution except cod-Churchillian defiance.

The Next Tempest

David Bond

The UK aims to develop a new Tempest fighter jet. MoD officials and executives from BAE Systems, Leonardo, MBDA, and Rolls-Royce are developing a business case. The government has set aside £2 billion of funding.

Unclear is how Britain can afford to pay for a new fighter jet when it cannot afford to buy an agreed 138 F-35 stealth fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. An initial batch of 48 F-35s for the two new aircraft carriers will cost over £9 billion. The fate of the remaining 90 is uncertain.

Tempest is seen as central to UK power after Brexit. Germany and France will produce their own new fighter jet. Industry is concerned over the sustainability of two competing European projects.

Africa Owes China

Jenni Marsh

Since 2000, Ethiopia has taken over $12 billion from Chinese creditors. Its capital Addis Ababa is over 2 km above sea level and home to at least 2.7 million people. China has provided the city with a ring road, a big intersection, a six-lane highway, the Ethio-Djibouti railway line connecting the country to the sea, an inner-city Metro system, and the $200 million African Union headquarters.

Altogether, African countries owe China about $130 billion. A Chinese foreign affairs spokesperson says China has paid high attention to African debt situation and is dedicated to sustainable development. When China finances roads, railways, and hydropower dams, it stipulates that Chinese construction companies build them with Chinese concrete and steel.

Ethiopian government minister Arkebe Oqubay: "One of the unique things that makes Chinese funding quite attractive is they practice non-intervention in local politics."

2018 September 2

Brexit: The Fall

Tim Shipman

Theresa May faces a new threat to her leadership. The man who ran her 2017 election campaign aims to destroy her Brexit plan and install Boris Johnson in Downing Street.

Sir Lynton Crosby, the election guru who helped Johnson win two London mayoral elections, is working with hardline Brexiteers to campaign against the Chequers plan. His firm CTF Partners and the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexit hardliners plan to publish a new plan.

May could call a general election if her Brexit deal is voted down by MPs. Conservatives say 33 letters calling for her to resign were submitted before the summer recess; 48 are needed to trigger a vote of no confidence. May has again ruled out holding a second referendum on Brexit.

MPs returning to Westminster on Tuesday are predicting the most turbulent three months in parliament in living memory. Theresa May must do a deal with Brussels, fight Boris Johnson and the Brexiteers, and endure the next Conservative party conference.

A Brexiteer: "An army is starting to mass behind an alternative policy. CTF has seen the opportunity to be behind the new prime minister. They want to get Boris in there."

Another: "If Boris has the backing of the right, he'll win."

Labour Antisemitism

The Observer

The Labour party has become engulfed in internal battles about antisemitism and neglected its job in holding the government to account. Its national executive committee must decide whether to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism or to persist with its own definition.

Labour says the IHRA definition risks precluding legitimate criticism of the Israeli government. Not true. IHRA: "Criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic."

The IHRA definition does not prevent condemning Israeli governments for killing Gazans, for expanding settlements in Palestinian territory, or for discriminatory treatment of Arab Israelis.

The Labour party has no right to invent its own definition of antisemitism.

Culture and Identity

Francis Fukuyama

Samuel Huntington said political behavior is heavily shaped by culture, and culture is ultimately rooted in religion. He said the old ideological divisions would give way to a world order based on a few big religiously grounded civilizations.

Identity is a new way to understand politics. Identity arises out of the belief that we have an inner self that can be ignored or disparaged by society. Identity politics revolves around demands for recognition and dignity. Both nationalism and Islamism can be seen as manifestations of identity.

Assertions of identity tend to fracture societies into smaller identity groups. Although the new populist nationalists in Russia, Poland, Hungary, and other parts of Europe have tried to build solidarity with one another, they find their national interests in conflict.

Identity is both socially constructed and contestable. By contrast, cultures are fixed and nearly impossible to change. Identities are neither biologically rooted nor of ancient provenance.

Huntington said there were no universal values underlying liberal democracy. There is no reason to think liberal democracy will spread and take root around the world. Democracy spread to places like Japan or South Korea as a result of American power.

Democratic institutions are historically new. In big history, human institutions have evolved from tribes to city states to big industrial societies with complex state governance. This evolution occurred around the world in different cultures.

2018 September 1

Chemnitz Murder

Sue Reid

Daniel Hillig was killed in the early hours of last Sunday morning. As he took out money from a bank machine, a man ordered him to hand over his cash and credit card. He tried to run, but was stabbed five times and died on the pavement near the Karl Marx memorial in central Chemnitz.

Three summers ago, Angela Merkel invited Syrians embroiled in a civil war to come to Germany. More than a million migrants arrived in a matter of months.

One of them was Yousif, 22, an Iraqi Kurd who is being investigated for the murder of Daniel Hillig. Yousif was living in an asylum hostel and is now in police custody. He has a string of convictions for crimes committed as an asylum seeker and was listed for deportation back to Iraq.

Earlier this year, Susanna Feldman, 14, was raped and strangled and left dead in a wooded area near her home in Mainz. Her suspected killer is Ali Bashar, 29, an Iraqi Kurd who arrived in Germany like Yousif in 2015.

AfD leader Alice Weidel demanded that Merkel resign: "Susanna's death is not a blind stroke of fate. It is the result of many years of scandalous failure of our asylum and immigration policies."

Chemnitz Protests

Guy Chazan

Michael Kretschmer, CDU prime minister of the German state of Saxony, addressing a meeting in Chemnitz: "It's not a good thing to be in a demonstration where people are giving the Hitler salute."

The reaction was furious. One man: "You are making out that the worst thing that happened was the Nazi salute. The worst thing was that a bloke got killed."

Chemnitz has become a symbol of the relentless rise of the hard right in Germany. The people at the meeting accused politicians of tarring them all with the brush of Nazism and underplaying the threat of immigrant crime.

Chemnitz mayor Barbara Ludwig called on locals to live together in peace and was booed. When she said she took the issue of law and order seriously, a man in the audience shouted: "Hypocrite!"

Matthias Henke, a demonstrator, held a sign accusing the CDU of being traitors: "Merkel talks about maintaining law and order but people are being slaughtered on the streets. If things go on like this, we are heading for civil war."

AR Fortress Europe

A Theory of Everything

George Musser

"We won't have a theory of everything without a theory of consciousness."
David Chalmers

Integrated Information Theory (IIT) models a conscious system as a network of neurons or equivalent components. The theory says the system is conscious to the extent that its parts act together in harmony. The underlying premise is that conscious experience is psychologically unified, so the brain function that generates it should be unified, too.

To quantify the cohesion of a system and its claim to being conscious, the theory lays out a procedure to calculate the amount of collective information in the system. The theory need not be a full description of consciousness in order to be a useful tool.

The theory could help with the puzzles of emergence that arise in physics. The physical world has a hierarchical structure. Reductionists say higher-level descriptions are mere approximations and all the real action occurs at the bottom level.

IIT theorists look at activity on all scales, from the whole organism down to its smallest parts, and predict where the mind should reside. They ascribe consciousness to the scale where the collective information is maximized, on the assumption that the dynamics of this scale will preempt the others.

IIT network could be any of the multilayered systems we study. An approach based on IIT allows for the possibility that causation occurs on more than one level. Perhaps the root level of nature is random and all the laws of nature emerge only in the aggregate.

Physics and psychology have been at odds since the ancient Greeks. In a world governed by physical law, there seems to be little room for human agency. But perhaps the real action occurs at the psychological level.

Quantum theory says an object can exist in a superposition of possible states. A particle can be both here and there at the same time. The Copenhagen interpretation is that the superposition collapses when we observe the particle. The interpretation draws a Heisenberg cut between systems that obey quantum laws and observers that follow classical physics.

One reading of Copenhagen is that consciousness makes the cut. Because conscious experience is internally coherent, the mind cannot be in a superposition. If collapse is driven by consciousness, information integration might connect collapse to ideas we need to understand consciousness.

AR Mindworlds

Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong on the Moon, July 1969

Back to Top Old Blogs Contact